Spencer Platt/Getty Images
People in the streets at Ground Zero, the site of the World Trade Centre, celebrate the death of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. The mastermind of the Sept.11 attacks was killed in Pakistan.
People in the streets at Ground Zero, the site of the World Trade Centre, celebrate the death of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. The mastermind of the Sept.11 attacks was killed in Pakistan. Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Laura Flanders is a former Air America Radio host and the host and founder of GRITtv.
Closure. That was the word on people's lips last night after President Obama announced that Osama bin Laden had been killed in a firefight with U.S. forces in Pakistan.
Hours after the attack on the Trade Towers in 2001 I walked down to the site. I returned there again last night and found a loud crowd shouting mostly the words "USA, USA," in the darkness to a clutch of news cameras.
While different in almost every other respect, what I found on both occasions were people searching. A decade ago, dust still on their skin, people were looking for safety, for loved ones, for explanation. This time, with a whole lot more breath in their lungs, people were looking once again — for others to be with and for closure.
"I came because they came," one firefighter told me, pointing at the crowd. He spent days at the site a decade ago looking and ultimately finding the body of a co-worker. Like everyone else who took time to talk, he said that he hoped the killing of bin Laden would bring comfort, and closure to the victims of the attacks — and to America's critics.
People want this chapter closed. The longing for that is palpable. Others last night talked about bringing troops back home, putting America back on course and moving towards peace. Quite a few people talked about that.
Much as we may want, history doesn't tend to roll out in neat chapters. "Justice has been done," the President said Sunday night. It's an indication of how changed we are: no arrest, no trial.
Justice isn't, actually, a 40 minute firefight. Bin Laden hasn't been the leader of al-Qaida in any operational way for years. Is his killing an achievement for U.S. intelligence, armed forces and the president? Absolutely. Will his death end history? No more than the attacks of began it.
To me, where we are today feels like where we were on Sept. 11 itself. Americans seeking sense and getting vengeance. Seeking connection and finding mostly media-fed jingoism. Trillions of dollars and a global ocean of tears later, Americans want to move on.
It's not that simple. Just as it was 10 years ago, and as it has been shown to be around the world since, remapping our way as a nation will not, in all likelihood, be done by our leaders. It'll have to be done by us. By we the people.