The spontaneous celebrations that broke out Sunday night across the country, including the campus of Illinois State University, reflect the release of pent-up frustrations over nearly 10 years of searching for Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States.
Many of the faces in those crowds belonged to young people. But this was deeper than an excuse to party. It reflects the fact that the 9/11 attacks were this generation’s Pearl Harbor. And many of these young people have answered the call to serve their country. They have enlisted in the military — or have friends and family who have served — inspired, at least in part, by the events of that day.
As President Obama told the nation, “Justice has been done,” we were once again united as a nation, nodding our heads in agreement or pumping our fists in the air.
The sense of unity that followed the 9/11 attacks once again, however briefly, returned with Obama’s announcement.
Obama said we should “think back” to that “sense of unity.”
Our enemies should remember it, too.
For, no matter how divided the American people might be on a variety of issues — a division that’s easy for all to see because of our commitment to freedom of expression — in the face of adversity, we come together.
Obama said, “Tonight we are once again reminded that American can do whatever we set out mind to.”
Left unsaid — but implied — in that speech is that the capture and killing of bin Laden also reminds our adversaries that America can do whatever we set our minds to.
That message was spoken directly by former President George W. Bush, who said in a statement, “The fight against terror goes on, but tonight America has sent an unmistakable message: No matter how long it takes, justice will be done.”
That message transcends the significance of eliminating bin Laden as al-Qaida’s leader.
We owe a debt of gratitude to all the military and intelligence personnel involved in getting bin Laden, especially those who put their lives on the line to carry out this mission.
And we owe a continuing debt to all who have served and are serving in the war against terrorism.
On this day, while the focus may be on the death of bin Laden, we also remember the nearly 3,000 people who died on Sept. 11, 2001, and approximately 6,000 Americans who have lost their lives in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.