What Now? Reflecting on the Past Week, and What's Ahead

The past 10 days have marked a momentous turn of events not only for families and victims of the September 11th attacks, but for our country.  But we cannot wish away the threats that are still in front of us.

The subterranean monster who sowed the seeds of "jihad" as we know it, cultivated a maniacal culture of death among young Muslims, and rejoiced at the death and suffering of American innocents is now dead.  Whatever the circumstances of this swift and brutal killing may have been, the world is a better place with bin Laden gone. 

Those Navy Seals remind us of things that make our nation great.  By all accounts, their mission was carried with tenacity and super-human valor, and our nation should be eternally grateful to them.  Let's also remember the thousands of young men and women who have sacrificed their lives and left their families behind so that the rest of us may live in peace and without fear.  Since 9/11, the US military - including those very young men and women - has frequently been maligned in the interest of politics.  Let us hope that such nonsense is behind us.

There were spontaneous celebrations across the country, in many scenes reminiscent of V-J Day.  Americans gathered in cities, town squares and on college campuses to share the news with a kind of unity that we've been sorely missing - and needing - since the aftermath of 9-11.   Some Europeans find this upsetting, but Americans know better.  We suffered unspeakable losses on 9/11, and we deserve to feel great about this important victory.  My hope is that the past week will have marked a turning point for our country, and some of the luster of the US as a "can do" nation restored.  Though we suffer and at times falter, the days of American exceptionalism are far from over.

My son, James Gadiel, was just 23 years old on 9/11, at work on that brilliant, sunny morning on the 103rd  floor of the North Tower.  Because of bin Laden and the 9/11 murderers, James hasn't been here to celebrate with me, so I cannot take part in the jubilation. Nonetheless, I have been happy to see it. It's important that Americans aren't bashful about being proud Americans; this was a "man on the moon" for the ages, and we should feel great about that.

What now?   When they learned of the death of bin Laden some jumped to the conclusion that the "war on terror" is over, and that we finally have "closure."  Well, I wish that were the case.  For one thing there's certainly no such thing as closure for the families, much less the victims.  For another, John Adams was right when he said that "Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence."  And the simple facts are that America faces grave, ever-present dangers at the hands of hate-filled terrorists, perhaps more so today than we have for years.  Osama bin Laden may be gone, but he spawned a generation of hatred against the US, and worse yet cultivated a network of financial and propaganda support that will pose a threat to the US for decades.

Tempting though it may be, we cannot allow our passions and hopes for pre-9/11 "normalcy" to overtake our priorities.  Jihad is a cancer, and by its nature its danger is not eliminated until it is completely extinguished.  None of us can permit the creeping sort of complacency to take hold, as it did in the days, weeks, months and years leading up to 9/11.  

In 50 years, the killing of Osama bin Laden will be rightfully seen as a pivotal event for our country.  My hope is that America will renew its promise as that "city on a hill" that President Reagan cherished.  But if some have their way, we'll look back with the tragic realization that bin Laden's demise convinced America to let down her guard in the interest of normalcy, while our enemies plotted their next move.  This we cannot allow to happen.  In the memory of my son, I will continue to fight to make sure that it doesn't.

Let's enjoy this moment. Soon, though, it will be the right time to "turn the page" and face the very real threats and challenges that are still ahead of us.   There's much left to do.

Peter Gadiel is the President of 9-11 Families for a Secure America, a non-profit foundation.  For more information or to make a tax-deductible donation, please visit www.911FSAFoundation.org.
The past 10 days have marked a momentous turn of events not only for families and victims of the September 11th attacks, but for our country.  But we cannot wish away the threats that are still in front of us.

The subterranean monster who sowed the seeds of "jihad" as we know it, cultivated a maniacal culture of death among young Muslims, and rejoiced at the death and suffering of American innocents is now dead.  Whatever the circumstances of this swift and brutal killing may have been, the world is a better place with bin Laden gone. 

Those Navy Seals remind us of things that make our nation great.  By all accounts, their mission was carried with tenacity and super-human valor, and our nation should be eternally grateful to them.  Let's also remember the thousands of young men and women who have sacrificed their lives and left their families behind so that the rest of us may live in peace and without fear.  Since 9/11, the US military - including those very young men and women - has frequently been maligned in the interest of politics.  Let us hope that such nonsense is behind us.

There were spontaneous celebrations across the country, in many scenes reminiscent of V-J Day.  Americans gathered in cities, town squares and on college campuses to share the news with a kind of unity that we've been sorely missing - and needing - since the aftermath of 9-11.   Some Europeans find this upsetting, but Americans know better.  We suffered unspeakable losses on 9/11, and we deserve to feel great about this important victory.  My hope is that the past week will have marked a turning point for our country, and some of the luster of the US as a "can do" nation restored.  Though we suffer and at times falter, the days of American exceptionalism are far from over.

My son, James Gadiel, was just 23 years old on 9/11, at work on that brilliant, sunny morning on the 103rd  floor of the North Tower.  Because of bin Laden and the 9/11 murderers, James hasn't been here to celebrate with me, so I cannot take part in the jubilation. Nonetheless, I have been happy to see it. It's important that Americans aren't bashful about being proud Americans; this was a "man on the moon" for the ages, and we should feel great about that.

What now?   When they learned of the death of bin Laden some jumped to the conclusion that the "war on terror" is over, and that we finally have "closure."  Well, I wish that were the case.  For one thing there's certainly no such thing as closure for the families, much less the victims.  For another, John Adams was right when he said that "Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence."  And the simple facts are that America faces grave, ever-present dangers at the hands of hate-filled terrorists, perhaps more so today than we have for years.  Osama bin Laden may be gone, but he spawned a generation of hatred against the US, and worse yet cultivated a network of financial and propaganda support that will pose a threat to the US for decades.

Tempting though it may be, we cannot allow our passions and hopes for pre-9/11 "normalcy" to overtake our priorities.  Jihad is a cancer, and by its nature its danger is not eliminated until it is completely extinguished.  None of us can permit the creeping sort of complacency to take hold, as it did in the days, weeks, months and years leading up to 9/11.  

In 50 years, the killing of Osama bin Laden will be rightfully seen as a pivotal event for our country.  My hope is that America will renew its promise as that "city on a hill" that President Reagan cherished.  But if some have their way, we'll look back with the tragic realization that bin Laden's demise convinced America to let down her guard in the interest of normalcy, while our enemies plotted their next move.  This we cannot allow to happen.  In the memory of my son, I will continue to fight to make sure that it doesn't.

Let's enjoy this moment. Soon, though, it will be the right time to "turn the page" and face the very real threats and challenges that are still ahead of us.   There's much left to do.

Peter Gadiel is the President of 9-11 Families for a Secure America, a non-profit foundation.  For more information or to make a tax-deductible donation, please visit www.911FSAFoundation.org.

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