Two weeks ago, on Sunday night, as I finished an English paper, I decided to check Facebook before going to bed. Statuses of “USA,USA,USA” and “Mission Accomplished” clogged my news feed, and it was through this that I learned that Osama bin Laden, the elusive leader of Al Qaeda who had been on the run since 9/11, was dead. At first I didn’t believe it, but articles linked to my friends’ Facebook posts quickly confirmed the news. An ecstatic feeling rose from the pit of my stomach.
For almost ten years, Al Qaeda, and bin Laden in particular, have dogged my steps and those of every American. I remember 9/11 distinctly. In the second grade, my father picked me up from school and we drove home in silence. He finally turned around to look at me, and I could see the pain in his eyes. He told me, “Ben, something terrible happened today, a group of terrorists flew into the Twin Towers in New York.” At the tender age of eight, I had no idea what the Twin Towers were, but I soon saw the footage on TV, the first plane, and then the second, crashing into both towers, toppling them.
In the ten years since, my understanding of 9/11’s magnitude has grown. As I learned the significance of the Twin Towers in New York, the similar attack on the Pentagon and Flight 93, I was horrified and strictly shocked that the United States, one of the most powerful nations on Earth, had just been brutally attacked by a group of rebel extremists with no flag or nationality. The invasion of Iraq that followed and the capture of Saddam Hussein dominated American attention for most of my life. As the public eye moved out of Iraq, into Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the United States focused on affairs at home, I forgot about Osama, and I began to think he had died in a cave of either disease or old age.
While the cloak-and-dagger nature of the mission that killed bin Laden is captivating, many have become too fascinated with the mechanics of the operation. From the elite Seal Team 6, who operated in total secrecy and used a top-secret stealth helicopter, to the dog used to sniff out booby traps in Osama’s compound, the logistics are fascinating. Yet they pale in comparison to the ramifications of Osama’s death at American hands.
On a global level, a retaliation from Al Qaeda is now much more likely. They may target a different city, Washington D.C, Philadelphia or even Boston. Now that bin Laden has been removed, his deputy, Zawahiri, is most likely to assume the role as head of the terrorist organization, and while perhaps not as ambitious as bin Laden, Zawahiri is just as effective, making him the new top priority for the war on terror. Yet for now, Americans can exhale and take a breath. For the victim’s families of 9/11, Osama’s death will hopefully offer some sense of closure. While the war on terror is far from over, these past few weeks have been good ones for being American.
Ben Krapels is a three-year Upper and a columnist for The Phillipian.