The first time I remember hearing about Osama bin Laden was in the days and weeks following the Feb. 26, 1993, bombing of the World Trade Center. I may have been aware of him before that, but it was that event -- it hit so close to home because the JOC's headquarters were in the WTC for two years at that time -- that brought him into my sights.
His demise Sunday, long promised and just as long in coming, provides a sense of closure for those, like me, who brushed death that day, for those who suffered such immense loss in the September 11 attacks more than eight years later, and in other attacks wrought around the world before and since by al-Qaeda and its founder.
But as I reflect on the last 20 years and bin Laden's reign of terror, I come to a rather ironic conclusion: We live in a safer world because of him. It is, of course, also a more intrusive life. The Transportation Security Administration and its invasive searches, after all, exist because of the attacks. So does the Patriot Act.
But who can deny that those intrusions -- you can count the Container Security Initiative, the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism, the 24-Hour Rule, 10+2 and 100 percent screening of air cargo among them -- are worth it if they prevent an attack?
It's that sort of vigilance, the vigilance President Obama mentioned in his statement Sunday night, that will prevent attacks such as last October's foiled attempt using air cargo freighters that had originated in Yemen.
We live in a dangerous world, and bin Laden's death in no way makes it less so. Terrorists existed long before him and will be with us long after, plotting the murders of innocent people worldwide. And they will have their share of successes.
But, though we may not always hear about them, even more successes will be ours. We are a changed people, hardened by a war brought into our homes by Osama bin Laden. In no small measure, he made us this way. We are a safer, more vigilant people because of him.
I just wish he didn't have to exist for that to happen.
How are you feeling today?
-- Contact Chris Brooks at firstname.lastname@example.org.