Monday, May 2, 2011

Evil had a Face

I kissed my husband goodbye as he left for work that Tuesday morning nearly 10 years ago. Ellie, then four, did not have preschool that day, leaving me free to hang out in my jammies a bit longer and finish feeding the kids breakfast and cleaning up the kitchen. I waited until after 8:00 to call my mom with sad news that a friend had been diagnosed with cancer, but Mom wasn't able to process it.

"Turn on the news," she interrupted me. "A plane just hit the World Trade Center."

I turned on the TV just in time to see Diane Sawyer look at the off-screen producer with confusion. A second plane had just hit the second tower.

Holding my baby, Luke, and watching Amelia and Ellie play oblivious to the fright one time zone to the east, I sat riveted in front of the television the rest of the morning, emotions of fear and grief taking flight with those of the rest of the country.

Later that afternoon I joined a few friends at church to pray. I prayed for those who had died, I prayed for their families, I prayed for the missing, I prayed for those who had been found.

Over the years I have prayed for those same people and for the safety of us still here on earth.

And over those years I have wondered if the manhunt would end with predator finding prey or if the prey would elude his predators until dying a natural death in some unknown location.

When my husband called me down to wait for the president's speech last night, not knowing what the topic might be, I threw out a prediction.

"I bet they found bin Laden," I said, observing how no one seemed panicked and rationalizing that something catastrophic would have been public knowledge. Daring to speak of this aloud, the words felt unnatural as they tumbled out

But the possibility seemed too far-fetched, like finding Big Foot or the Loch Ness Monster. Bin Laden had almost become a fictional character, a piece of tragic lore after nearly a decade of hiding.

Then the possible was confirmed. I never see shit like this coming, but for once I was spot on.

This time it was I who told my mom to turn on the television. I heard her gasp when she read the ticker. At the risk of stealing from Oprah, that Tuesday morning heartache had come full-circle.

But what to do with this?

It did not feel like revenge, for there truly is no such thing when it comes to the senseless slaughtering of innocent lives by a man without capacity for remorse. Effort put into revenge returns as energy directed to fostering more hate.

It did, though, feel like a victory. Cheers for our brave military who plotted and planned for years, finally executing with extraordinary precision an operation that, if future behavior truly can be predicted by past patterns, should save thousands of lives. And the triumph of eliminating the threat of this enemy is immeasurable.

So I celebrate not the killing of a life, but the elimination of certain looming death. And I hope we all can agree that the greatest force our country can show to the world is our ability to pull Osama bin Laden out of the legend to which we had unconsciously assigned him and into the world in which we live, rejoicing that his reign of terror is over and, with our greatest capacity for dignity, leave his judgement up to God.

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