Obama Announces Osama bin Laden Dead--This Was Personal

It is gratifying that this was a firefight, not something impersonal like a drone missile. This was personal.

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Nearly 10 years later, we have a moment of national catharsis. President Obama last night put in words the sentiment which the spontaneous, jubilant crowds outside the White House and at Ground Zero expressed with triumphant roars and cheers: “Justice has been done.”

[See photos of reactions to Osama bin Laden's death.]

Justice is not always swift. But it is patient, and its reach can be long--in this case long enough to cut through years and over continents to deliver its final judgment.

The details will filter out in the coming hours, days, and weeks. But this much we know: “A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability,” the president told the country, adding that, “after a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.” It is viscerally gratifying that this was a firefight, not a missile fired from a ship miles away at sea or from a robot plane circling far overhead, or something similarly impersonal. This was personal.

The details of that awful day will, as the president said, forever be “seared into our national memory.” It left, he said, “a gaping hole in our hearts.” But as a friend of mine wrote on Facebook last night, reflecting what so many of us feel, “I saw a horrifyingly large cloud of black smoke rising over the Pentagon on 9/11 when I biked to work that day. I've been waiting for today's news ever since.”

The wound of 9/11 is no longer an open one. Justice has been done.

  • See photos of reactions to Osama bin Laden's death.
  • See a slide show of six potential terrorist targets.
  • See a transcript of Obama's speech on bin Laden death.
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