Closure. That was the word on people’s lips last night after President Obama announced that Osama bin Laden had been killed in a firefight with US forces in Pakistan.
Hours after the attack on the Trade Towers in 2001 I walked down to the site. I returned there again last night and found a loud crowd shouting mostly the words “USA, USA,” in the darkness to a clutch of news cameras.
While different in almost every other respect, what I found on both occasions were people searching. A decade ago, dust still on their skin, people were looking for safety, for loved ones, for explanation. This time, with a whole lot more breath in their lungs, people were looking once again—for others to be with and for closure.
“I came because they came,” one firefighter told me, pointing at the crowd. He spent days at the site a decade ago looking and ultimately finding the body of a co-worker. Like everyone else who took time to talk, he said that he hoped the killing of bin Laden would bring comfort, and closure to the victims of the attacks—and to America’s critics.
People want this chapter closed. The longing for that is palpable. Others last night talked about bringing troops back home, putting America back on course and moving towards peace. Quite a few people talked about that.
Much as we may want, history doesn’t tend to roll out in neat chapters. “Justice has been done,” the President said Sunday night. It’s an indication of how changed we are: no arrest, no trial.
Justice isn’t, actually, a forty-minute firefight. bin Laden hasn’t been the leader of Al Qaeda in any operational way for years. Is his killing an achievement for US intelligence, armed forces and the president? Absolutely. Will his death end history? No more than the attacks of began it.
To me, where we are today feels like where we were were on 9/11 itself. Americans seeking sense and getting vengeance. Seeking connection and finding mostly media-fed jingoism. Trillions of dollars and a global ocean of tears later, Americans want to move on.
It’s not that simple. Just as it was ten years ago, and as it has been shown to be around the world since, remapping our way as a nation will not, in all likelihood, be done by our leaders. It’ll have to be done by us. By we the people.
The F Word is a regular commentary by Laura Flanders, the host of GRITtv and editor of At The Tea Party, out now from OR Books. GRITtv broadcasts weekdays on DISH Network and DIRECTv, on cable, and online at GRITtv.org and TheNation.com. Follow GRITtv or GRITlaura on Twitter and “like” us on Facebook.
For links to The Nation’s complete coverage of Osama bin Laden’s death, click here.