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Wineka: Marking bin Laden's death

By Mark Wineka
mwineka@salisburypost.com
Shops in downtown Salisbury stirred to life slowly this morning, as if rubbing their eyes clear of the long weekend, one that started with a fairy-tale wedding and ended with a special-ops killing.
Bernhardt Hardware got its tomato plants on the sidewalk early. Other stores propped open their doors — it was that kind of beautiful morning — and moved their triangular sandwich boards out front.
But there was no visible celebration of Osama bin Laden’s death. Church bells weren’t ringing. Cars weren’t honking their horns in jubilation. American flags weren’t flying from every storefront.
Signs on the door at City Hall were only public notices for upcoming meetings. The marquee at the Meroney Theater was plugging the “Farnsworth Invention,” not bin Laden’s demise. Store windows were advertising normal deals and merchandise — none linked to any “We-Killed-Osama-Half-Off” sale.
Sunday night, I remember feeling uneasy when I saw people — many of them the age of my young adult sons — taking to the streets in Washington and New York to celebrate a man’s killing. Just as quickly, I felt guilty for not celebrating with them, given the terrorist bin Laden was and how many American deaths he had caused.
Pete Bogle said it best on my Facebook page.
“While I am thankful in every way that he is dead and fully believe that his assassination was justifiable and right,” Bogle said, “I cannot in good conscience celebrate the death of any man — even this one. Thank you to those in command who made the decision to handle his remains with respect.”
I also noticed a tweet from Sara Gregory, a former intern at the Post and a journalism student at the University of North Carolina. It carried a hint of this reserve, even though we all had wanted bin Laden dead.
She quoted Proverbs 24:17: “Do not rejoice when your enemies fall, and do not let your heart be glad when they stumble.”
Mark Twain seemed to leave us a quote for every occasion. He said, “I’ve never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure.”
My heart had another reaction at first — one I hate to say out loud. But hearing of bin Laden’s death, I said to myself, “We’re done. We got him. Let’s get our men and women out of Afghanistan now. For good.”
I know how naive this sentiment is. In killing bin Laden, the U.S. special operations team lopped off the head of the al Qaeda terrorist group, but that doesn’t mean its arms and legs aren’t still moving.
Still, I always held a simplistic view of why we rushed into Afghanistan 10 years ago, and I thought it was a mission designed to find Osama bin Laden and make him pay for 9/11. I pictured him moving from cave to cave to elude us, while making those silly videotapes to prove he was still alive. I never pictured him hanging out in suburban Pakistan.
Other thoughts that seeped in, as bin Laden’s death sunk in:
• 343 firefighters; 72 police officers; 40 passengers and crew.
• We have a new reason to celebrate May Day.
• The kind of operation successfully pulled off Sunday to kill bin Laden reminded me of something Jack Bauer (actor Kiefer Sutherland) could have pulled off in “24.”
• I also can’t help but think of all those secretive Robin Sage exercises they conduct annually in Rowan and other nearby counties. It’s the kind of special-ops training that helps prepare soldiers for the kind of strikes made Sunday.
• Bin Laden and I were the same age.
• Pakistan has a suburban area?
• My sons were 15 and 13 when 9/11 happened. I understand why college kids and other young adults took this so personally.
• The operation to kill bin Laden took 40 minutes; the search, 10 years.
• This is a time when Charlie Sheen could say ‘Winning,” and I wouldn’t be annoyed.
• Have we, as a people, become too bloodthirsty?
• Some Navy Seal out there fired the shot that killed bin Laden. Do we want to know, or should we know, who it is?
• Newspapers still have an impact, especially when their bold front-page headlines say things such as “Justice Served,” “The Butcher of 9/11 is DEAD” and “Rot in Hell.”
• I heard that the New York Times dropped its use of the “Mr.” courtesy title in writing about bin Laden.
• I hope the family of Lakeina Francis, the Rowan Countian killed in the terrorist attack on the USS Cole in Yemen, finds a tiny bit of closure with bin Laden’s death.
In walking downtown this morning, I was surprised initially at the lack of outwards signs of expression noting an important American victory against terrorism.
Rose Meeks Jones, a shop owner, left this Facebook message for me:
“Today I am thankful for the fact that an incredibly evil person is gone from our world,” she said. “I do not rejoice in their death, but that they can no longer bring death and destruction to our world.
“I pray for peace among the peoples of this world and for all who serve in our military and strive to make this world a safer place for us all. God Bless America and God Bless all the world over!”
Going about our normal business, I think, shows a peace and dignity that appropriately ignores bin Laden, while honoring the lives of everyone we’ve lost.
It has been a long 10 years.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or mwineka@salisburypost.com.

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