A decade after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the World Trade Center site retains an aching emptiness.
Pledges to rebuild and restore the area to its former stature have done nothing to ease the pain of concentrated loss in that relatively small area. The construction crews working, the tourists gazing or the children laughing in strollers nearby haven’t been able to displace the pain that’s been resident in that pocket of southern Manhattan for almost a decade.
The crowds assembling there, and outside the White House, overnight to celebrate Osama bin Laden’s death reveal the country still has a desperate need for vengeance or justice against the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks.
A small group of commandos delivered it with the most significant special operations mission since World War II.
Courage here on the part of the special operations forces and paramilitaries from other government agencies is unmistakable. President Barack Obama also showed fortitude by going ahead with the mission, and by cutting out the Pakistanis from any foreknowledge. It was the right decision on both counts.
In such delicate and audacious endeavors, failure is as likely as success. In this case, the demise of one of the team’s helicopters underscores how close to disaster these forces must sometimes operate. And how much is on the line for not just their commanders and leaders, but for the country itself.
Failure would have presented an almost unthinkable set of problems that, with this success, will now not have to be over-analyzed or politicized to the country’s detriment.
The infamous 1980 attempt by President Jimmy Carter to free U.S. hostages in Tehran, Operation Eagle Claw, foundered not for lack of courage on his part or those of the Delta Force soldiers on the audacious raid, but because of mechanical problems with helicopters and then an accident inside Iran involving aircraft used by the rescuers. Machines failed the men. President Carter failed to right a wrong.
Instead, celebrations are the order of the day.
The operation to go after bin Laden succeeded by the most easily measurable metric. He is dead, shot, according to U.S. officials, after resisting the raiders. No Americans died.
Behind the joy there is still need for concern and caution.
Bin Laden’s hideout in Pakistan was just 35 miles north of Islamabad. “The area is relatively affluent, with lots of retired military,” a senior administration official told reporters during an overnight conference call. Pakistan’s reliability remains in question. Hopefully, the men who killed bin Laden will not have to return to Pakistan again to free hostages from the U.S. embassy.
For now, the revelry drowns out the worries. It is unusual to cheer a death because such loss is always marked by absence. However, this one will begin to fill a void, and not just the one at Ground Zero.