Bill never calls at 6am, but this morning the phone rang…
His message was simple…Bin Laden was dead, killed by a team of Navy Seals. It took a moment for the news to settle into my brain, and then I started to cry. It’s hard to even put into words my emotions – relief and joy mixed with haunting memories of sorrow and heartbreak. It was like someone turned on a spigot and all those feelings of 9/11 came flooding back. I remember how beautiful that morning was as I clipped fresh herbs in the backyard, and how I heard a thunderous “boom”, thinking to myself how is there thunder on a perfect sunny day? I hadn’t turned on the tv yet, so I had no idea what was happening. What I heard was the plane hitting the Pentagon not far from my home.
I thought about my then neighbour and friend Jackie. Our two toddlers played together blissfully ignorant of the tragedy unfolding, while we sat glued to the television scared out of our minds. Her husband, Patrick, was stuck on Capitol Hill. No one could get out of the city, and there was that rumor of another plane headed to D.C. My then husband, Gary, was not a half mile from the Pentagon when the plane hit. Indeed, he was to have been at a meeting that morning in that very section of the five-sided puzzle palace. At the last minute, the meeting was moved to another location, thank God. We saw the World Trade Center fall, both of us speechless at the horror we witnessed. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to think of that day and not think about what Jackie and I shared.
Likewise, that following weekend, I visited my friend Cathy Kern Rombola at her home in northern Jersey, a reunion that had been in the making for some time. When I arrived, everything was so still so fresh. We drove to a location overlooking the river and downtown Manhattan, what was left still smoldering. We sobbed for what seemed like an eternity. Another image seared into my brain.
For days, I was glued to the television. I didn’t sleep, I didn’t eat. I was addicted to the 24 hours news cycle. It took weeks for me to even begin to show some semblance of myself. But like most people, I was forever changed. I really believe that we, as a nation, truly lost any innocence we may have had. Nothing has been the same since.
So, when I heard of Bin Laden’s demise, I was expecting more of a sense of justice, but it wasn’t there. They said on the news that he was responsible, over the past twenty years, for the deaths of more than 15,000 people, more than 8,000 of them his own Muslim brothers and sisters. How do you ever get justice for the loss of so many innocent lives? Add to that the grief and despair suffered by all those whose loved ones had died, and the numbers of individuals affected are simply mind-numbing. Just wrapping your head around the totality of the situation is enough to make you vomit. There will never be justice for the evil he inflicted on those people, those families, on all of us really.
May the jubilance that so many feel at this bastards death not overshadow the symbolic meaning of his death, the selfless courage of our military and our intelligence communities, and the closure that the families of 9/11 victims so desperately need in order to heal their hearts. I wish them peace, and any comfort they can derive from this moment.
And God bless America.