Osama bin Laden is Gone, Unfortunately not Forgotten

I can’t, and probably never will be able to, sing “America the Beautiful” without choking up. Nine and a half years ago I stood, hand in hand, with hundreds of strangers in a Catholic church in New York City as we wept while singing that song. I had long since “fallen away” from the church, but on September 14th, 2001 I sought comfort in something familiar for the National Day of Prayer. Especially poignant to me is the verse, “Thine alabaster cities gleam; Undimmed by human tears.” It gets me every time.

I rarely miss living in New York City since moving to California five years ago -- I loved it, but was ready to leave after ten years. Tonight, however, my husband and I both felt a strong desire to march to Times Square or Ground Zero. The memories of that week in September are flooding back. The faces on the missing posters in Union Square; the weeping in church; the neighbor who didn’t know if her sister survived the collapse of the towers (she did); the smoke rising into the blue sky for days and days; finally getting through to my family by phone; Humvees and Blackhawks in Manhattan; the oddly comforting sound of fighter jets overhead; and the smell. For months, the smell.

I can’t stop thinking about the loss of American, British and allied service personnel; the loss of civilian life here and abroad; the national debt racked up because of the subsequent wars; the Patriot Act. Bin Laden destroyed a lot more than the Twin Towers. I am so relieved that our special forces finally found and killed him, but it’s difficult to feel jubilant tonight.

Yet, we never gave up looking for him and this is truly an important psychological victory for the United States -- maybe more. Even though I feel somber tonight there was one little fact that made me giggle. Apparently, NBC had to break into an episode of The Celebrity Apprentice to announce the President’s speech and the death of bin Laden. Ain’t karma a bitch.