For almost ten years, these people have been trying to put the pieces of their shattered lives back together so that they may heal and perhaps build some kind of a future after having their loved ones violently taken from them.
I wondered how and what they were feeling now that bin Laden was confirmed dead: relief, closure, happiness; maybe all of those things at the same time. I’m pretty sure that as time has passed and each anniversary has been publicly marked, these relatives and friends have probably experienced every phase of grief and gone back again.
There is no official resting place for many of those lost in the catastrophic events of that day. There is no cemetery marker for them to visit because there wasn’t a body to claim and bury. There is only the hallowed destinations of Ground Zero, the Pentagon and a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania where Flight 93 crashed.
Firemen, policemen, window washers, waiters, stockbrokers, investment bankers, pilots and flight attendants; all were living their lives and carrying out their normal daily routines unaware of the destruction ahead; unaware of Osama bin Laden’s evil plan. As New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on the one-year anniversary: ”They were our neighbors, our husbands, our children, our sisters, our brothers, and our wives. They were our countrymen and our friends. They were us.”
And the lives of those left behind to grieve were forever changed.
Each person who loses a loved one eventually comes to understand that they are on a personal journey that has no single path or prescribed time line. Eventually, resilience can be learned and acquired for life. Doctors say that good, strong relationships among family and friends and a sense of belonging to something bigger than yourself are essential in overcoming pain and suffering and starting the process of recovery.
Just as everyone remembers where they were when the tragic events of September 11, 2001 started to take place, most Americans will now also remember how they heard the long anticipated news that Osama bin Laden had finally been found and killed. Neighbors and colleagues I talked to were filled with mixed emotions. Initially, they were happy but then on reflection they were filled with sadness and fear for they said they know that the finality of this act for bin Laden doesn’t put an end to the possibility of more acts of terrorism.
In Rome today, The Vatican issued a statement that came surprisingly close to striking the right tone: “Osama bin Laden, as we all know, bore the most serious responsibility for spreading divisions and hatred among populations, causing the deaths of innumerable people, and manipulating religions for this purpose.”
“In the face of a man’s death, a Christian never rejoices, but reflects on the serious responsibilities of each person before God and before men, and hopes and works so that every event may be the occasion for the further growth of peace and not of hatred.”