Bin Laden’s death bringing closure
“Justice has been done.”
With those words and hundreds more, West Indian mothers and fathers who lost children and youths whose parents never came home after the atrocity of 9/11 joined United States President Barack Obama in greeting the news of the death of Osama bin Laden at the hands of a professional American special forces team deployed in Pakistan.
It was a jubilant United States and a grateful international community that hailed bin Laden’s death. After all, he was the mastermind of the abhorrent criminal act which brought down the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre, killing almost 2 000 innocent men, women and children, “the worst attack” on American people in their history, stated Obama.
Bin Laden, the architect of the 9/11 assaults on Manhattan that used two commercial passenger jets, on the Pentagon in Washington, and on a crowded aircraft in Pennsylvania, was killed in a well executed “firefight” with the United States Navy Seals that lasted 40 minutes.
His death was a long time in coming.
“Now, I have closure,” said Albert Blackman, a Bajan who lives in upstate New York and who lost his 26-year-old son Balewa, a Wall Street account executive who was planning to spend the November Thanksgiving holiday with his aunt, uncle and other close relatives in Barbados, but was killed before he could take another trip to the place he called his second home.
At least four other Barbadians were killed in the slaughter perpetrated by bin Laden, and among them was an immigrant from St Thomas, a mother from St Michael, and the father of a young child in Westbury on Long Island.
While the deadly attacks occurred on American soil almost a decade ago and remain etched on the country’s consciousness, the pain and suffering were international in scope. Among the thousands of people who had left home thinking of supporting their families or otherwise going about their daily lives
in their adopted country were persons from many areas of the world: the Caribbean, Africa, Europe, the Middle East, Latin America and Asia included.
President Obama articulated it best in a national address on Sunday night when he said: “It was nearly ten years ago that a bright September day was darkened “by the work of a terrorist leader and his organization, al Qaeda. Now he is no more, shot in the head, along with some of his acolytes, a woman among them serving as a human shield.”
Hyacinth Blackman, a Jamaican who lived in Brooklyn at the time and who lost her son, Balewa, can readily recall his wave of goodbye as he descended into the subway station.
“It’s painful to think about it,” she told the WEEKEND NATION a few days ago from her West Palm Beach home in Florida.
Balewa’s father, a retired New York State public servant, who like his former wife came to the United States as an immigrant from the Caribbean, hopes he may now be able to “sleep well” again, free of fear that bin Laden would strike again somewhere in the United States or in a far-flung corner of the world.
President Obama, the military and the intelligence community deserve full credit for their determination, judgement and skill which have brought the world to this point of being able to breathe a sigh of relief.
Clearly, these past few days have been a good time for the United States and for the families of the 9/11 victims, simply because while nothing will bring back their loved ones, there is a measure of closure.
Now, we are hearing some moaning and groaning about the wisdom of killing an unarmed bin Laden in his hideout in Pakistan. Try voicing such a reaction to Mr Blackman, who already thinks bin Laden’s quick death was too swift and too easy.
How about the Bajan children who lost their mother after she was called into work at the restaurant atop the World Trade Centre tower but never returned home?
Obama sought to remind the nation of some key things, such as the terrible impact of terrorism on the personal lives of families and the commitment of the United States to protect those on its shores.
In the case of the former, he cited the empty seats at the dinner table, the children “who were forced to grow up without their mother or father” and the parents “who would never know the feeling of their child’s embrace”.
That speaks to the never-ending sorrow being experienced by an array of people around the world, the Caribbean included.