One mission (finally) accomplished, but is war against terrorism over?
“Did we get the bastard?” – Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C.
“We got him!” — Vice President Joe Biden
It was about 9 p.m. Sunday night when I flipped on the television and found out the nearly 10-year search for Osama bin Laden had ended in Pakistan with the death of the master of worldwide terror at the hands of an American assault team.
The news brought a jumble of emotions.
Immediately, I was flooded with memories. Of the phone call that came from my sister-in-law as I approached Rifle on I-70 headed to Denver on the morning of September 11, 2001. Obviously, I answered “No” when she asked if I was watching the World Trade Center disaster unfold before the wide eyes of a shocked world.
There were several hours of concern in our family that day until we heard from a niece attending graduate school in New York City that she was safe. We’d later learn that two family friends, co-workers who’d attended my brother’s funeral a few months earlier, had lost their lives when the Twin Towers collapsed.
I recalled being part of the steering committee, working with Harry Hagaman, Illene Roggensack and others, on two local observances of the 9-11 tragedy staged at Suplizio Field. Greg Merschel and local Boy Scouts placed some 3,000 individual flags, two of them carrying the scribbled names of our friends, on the turf to commemorate lives lost in New York City, at the Pentagon and in rural Pennsylvania.
An outfield ringed with vehicles of the local emergency responders and law enforcement agencies charged with keeping us safe here on our home turf. The roar of the military jets during the flyover Gen. Hagaman arranged. The way a community thousands of miles from ground zero came together to commemorate the tragic events and the senseless deaths of people few of them knew.
There was also, I admit, a feeling of relief on Sunday evening.
“This momentous achievement marks a victory for America, for people who seek peace around the world, and for all those who lost loved ones on Sept. 11, 2001 ... tonight America has sent an unmistakable message: No matter how long it takes, justice will be done.” — Former President George W. Bush
No doubt there is a great deal of symbolism associated with finally bringing an end to one piece of the terrorism puzzle. But, the morning after the raid on that compound in Pakistan, others were certain that it was only one important, but isolated move, in the war on terrorism.
Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, was on the “Today Show” warning that retaliatory moves should be expected sooner rather than later. Terrorists, more specifically al-Qaida, blamed for the 1988 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and the 2000 attack on the USS Cole in Yemen, could not let the death go unanswered, King warned. CIA Director Leon Panetta agreed and the State Department issued a worldwide travel alert.
This warning, both dated and now timely, came in an interview shortly after the U.S. invaded Afghanistan.
“America can’t get me alive. I can be eliminated, but not my mission.” — Osama bin Laden
I was struck, yesterday morning, by The New York Times photo of New York City firemen, their fire-response coats bearing the now-familiar “FDNY” letters, watching the electronic headlines over Times Square announcing Bin Laden’s death.
I’ve decided I’m glad we’ll be spared the certain political arguing that would have ensued over how to deal with him, legally and otherwise, had he been captured alive.
I’m not surprised by the mixed emotions of families and friends of 9/11 victims. Some are pleased to have closure. Others have had the raw emotion of their losses rekindled.
I hope Sen. Bob Kerry was right when he said, “We are a nation of peace and laws, and people everywhere should understand that our 10-year manhunt was in search of justice, not revenge.”
And I’m certain what I’ll be thinking about as I drive to Rifle later today for a couple of meetings, then on to Denver. I’m hoping there’ll be no repeat of the kind of news that morning phone call from my sister-in-law brought as I traveled that same stretch of I-70 a little more than 10 years ago.