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On September 10, 2001, I flew back home from Ireland, through London. I sat next to a young Muslim mother and her eleven-year-old daughter, who were returning from a trip to Bangladesh to celebrate the daughter's memorization of the Koran with family members there.
They were a happy pair. I had started a conversation with them because I saw that the youngster was reading a book about philology, the study of word origins. As an English professor, I was thrilled to see such an interest in language in one so young. We spoke with each other all the way across the Atlantic. They were thoroughly American, too. They loved coming back to this country, the girl to go back to school with her friends and to be "back home" after a long trip.
The next morning I went to my local coffee shop early, around 6:00 a.m. here on the West Coast. I was told by the barista that something had happened in New York City, and that I needed to go home and turn on the TV. I did just that, and saw the smoke coming out of the first World Trade Center Tower. As I watched in disbelief, the second plane flew into the second tower. Like everybody else in the country I was dumbfounded. It became clear that we were under attack, and that it was an act conceived by Islamic terrorists under the leadership of Al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden.
Like everyone else I was shocked, angered, and concerned for all of the innocent civilian Americans trapped or dying in those buildings, as well as at the Pentagon. Then the news covered the plane that went down in the Pennsylvania field, and also the brave firefighters and police who were dying trying to save people. My next thoughts, interestingly, were of the young Muslim mother and daughter I had sat next to and had such a pleasant conversation with just hours before. I said to myself, "Their lives, just like ours, will never be the same again."
On September 11, 2001, the world changed for all of us. Since that day we have been at war with the mindless, irrational terrorism initiated by Osama bin Laden. We lost more than 2,700 citizens in those towers. We lost the brave firefighters and police who went there to save as many lives as possible. We lost all of the innocents on those commercial airliners, lives at the Pentagon, and many good, young military lives in the wars that came about as a result.
On the evening of May 1, 2011, the terrorist Osama bin Laden met the fate that was due to him. I don't say that celebration is the ideal response, but I would say that justice has come home to roost for one who desired a murderous end to all we believe in. What bin Laden did, and proudly promoted thereafter, has made the world worse for us and for people like the young mother and daughter I flew home with.
We must thank members of the Navy SEAL Team 6 for their incredible precision and bravery, demonstrating the quality of these fine troops on the ground. They conducted the effort without the loss of a single American life, or a single innocent Pakistani life. President Barak Obama also deserves kudos. He kept the knowledge of this effort to himself for a week, while visiting the tornado-ravaged Southern states and the annual dinner for journalists in Washington, D.C. We can only imagine the concern he felt during that time. Their efforts, along with the long, patient work of the intelligence community, have all earned our praise. It may also come out in the days to come that the computer hard drives, CD's, and other information found in that compound will allow our forces to keep after those who might want to replace bin Laden as well.
Our active duty soldiers, our veterans, and the families of those lost on 9/11 have suffered a great deal as a result of this man's decisions to be a terrorist, and to create Al-Qaida. I will not gloat, but I must admit to a warm feeling that he got what he deserved.