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He appeared invincible. The ruthless mastermind behind the Sept. 11, 2011, terrorist attacks that killed 3,000 Americans eluded capture for almost 10 years. But that changed on May 1, 2011, when U.S. Navy SEALS killed Osama bin Laden in a compound in Pakistan.
On Sunday, shouts of joys and cheer rang out across the nation as President Barack Obama made the late-night announcement. But social media actually upstaged President Obama as Twitter sent out the first death notices.
May 1, 2011, will go down as one of the “I-remember-what-I-was-doing-when-I-heard-about...” days in history.
Such was the case on Sept, 11, 2011, when knife-wielding hijackers crashed two airliners into the World Trade Center toppling the twin towers, another plane slammed into the Pentagon and a fourth crashed in Pennsylvania.
To say we were shocked is too much of an understatement. We were glued to the televisions as we watched courageous firefighters, police officers and other rescuers run into the burning buildings. People trapped in the higher floors preferred to jump from windows rather than being consumed by flames. Witnesses described the sound of their bodies hitting the pavement.
We watched in awe as the massive buildings crumbled to the ground crushing everyone inside. The city filled with ash, smoke and debris. With no transit system, those fortunate enough to survive were forced to walk to their homes, many of them miles away. They moved in zombie-like fashion.
Lancaster native Jodi Honeycutt, who works in New York, described the chaos of that fateful day.
“It’s terrifying to tell you the truth,” Honeycutt said in 2001. “People are panicking in the streets. It’s horrible. It’s what you think of when someone says ‘Armageddon.’ ”
It didn’t take long for authorities to link the attacks to bin Laden and the Taliban. After the shock and mourning, we got angry. Americans rallied for revenge. Then President George W. Bush vowed to get those responsible for the attacks.
‘‘Freedom itself was attacked this morning and I assure you freedom will be defended,’’ Bush said. “Make no mistake. The United States will hunt down and pursue those responsible for these cowardly actions.’’
9/11 was the end of innocence for America. That day changed our lives forever. It changed the way we traveled, how we secured our nation and every aspect of our lives.
President Bush sent troops to Afghanistan to search for bin Laden and al-Qaida. The global manhunt has taken almost a decade. Many soldiers were killed and wounded in the mission. At times, we wondered if we would ever find him
But that changed Sunday when a small group of elite American soldiers forced their way into bin Laden’s hideout with lethal precision and killed him. None of our troops were killed. We salute these folks and everyone involved for role in ending bin Laden’s reign.
“Justice has been done,” President Obama said.
President Bush agreed.
“The fight against terror goes on, but tonight America has sent an unmistakable message,” President Bush said in a written statement. “No matter now long it takes, justice will be done.”
Don’t get us wrong, the end of bin Laden does not mean the end of terrorism. But it does send the message that Americans will never stop seeking justice.