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(c) by Mary Griggs

I learned last night through my Twitter feed that Osama bin Laden was killed by US forces after a 10 year manhunt.

I first posted a joke about how Donald Trump will probably want to see his death certificate. Then, the sight of people gathering in DC and other cities to chant “USA! USA! USA!” reminded me so much of the celebrations that took place in the Middle East once al-Qaeda terrorists claimed responsibility for the attack. At the time, I found their shouting “Allah Akbar” (G-d is Great) at the news of over 2700 civilian, non-combatant casualties to be truly repugnant. Seeing our people respond to the news with such gloating made me feel really conflicted.

I waited for the President’s speech and have to give him props for his sobering reality check. You can read the full text and watch a video here. That 9/11 changed America–besides the Patriotic Act and nail clippers being confiscated at airports, we entered into two wars and dedicated an enormous amount of resources in turning segments of our military away from their peace keeping and defending democracy missions into assassins. While I agree with him that we showed the world we can do whatever we set our minds to, I have to wonder if those are the values I want the United States to export.

After watching the President’s speech, I changed my Facebook status to a quote a from Mark Twain: “I’ve never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure.”

When it comes down to it, I am glad that he will no longer be a plague upon the world. Unfortunately, he was not alone in believing that killing innocents will change society. I truly hope that his organization is incapacitated because of his death but I fear that there are others waiting in the wings. Terrorism doesn’t need to defeat their enemy with superior force; they only need their enemies to surrender. Surrender their principles, surrender their freedom. We cannot win if we lose our humanity and our fear.

As a historical note, my Dad is the one who called me the morning of September 11, 2001, right after the second plane hit the World Trade Center. I was living in Oakland, CA at the time and had flown back the day before from a conference in Atlanta. I didn’t own a TV at the time, so I went to my gym to watch the news. I never made it onto a machine to work out. I just stood there for several hours with about forty other people staring up at the sight of those planes hitting the towers, over and over again.

I was shocked and numb and scared. I had spent a decade working for Borders Books and Music and had trained with the GM of the store at 5 World Trade Center. The building was severely damaged by the collapse of the two Towers but, luckily, no Borders employee died in the attacks or immediate aftermath. I knew of no-one else living or working close to ground zero but watching the people of that city and those incredibly brave first responders running towards the madness formed a bond between us that I still feel today.

One of things I remember most was how quiet things were. I lived near a descent route to the Oakland airport and the skies were empty as the air traffic was stopped. It was pretty eerie.

So, what is the lesson here?

The hearts and minds of the people are the true objective of terrorists. To them, loss of life is irrelevant and more casualties the better. We must never allow them to provoke us to counter with such violence and horror as to exceed their acts. In our fight for justice, we must not lose our own hearts and minds.

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