It's not that I think his death means an end to terror (impossible) or that it's justice well-served (how could the death of one person possibly deliver that?) or that it means the end of an era (there will always be a bad guy out there).
I'm not sure that his death has as much actual meaning as it does symbolic, particularly for Americans but also for his followers and anyone else that ever heard his name.
I think it's a milestone. I think the world is better off without his hate and hypnotizing personality that convinced so many people that what he was speaking was the truth. I think he was a modern-day Hitler and capable of a much grander campaign than he had time to accomplish. I think lives have been saved.
I have written about living in Kenya before, but all you need to know for today is that my family lived there 1996-1998 and left the country just weeks before the August, 1998 Embassy bombings. While Bin Laden and his team were planning the bombings, my father worked in that embassy.
What I find myself thinking today is that I am relieved, so incredibly RELIEVED, that a dangerous man who very likely saw my father's name in print as a part of the planning, perhaps said it out loud and maybe even saw a surveillance photo of his face as he walked into and out of the Embassy, is dead.
This man who performed such incredible acts of violence and hate to nameless people? I am pretty sure he once knew my father's name. Because of his role and responsibilities, I think he probably followed him and he knew which office was his in the American Embassy in Nairobi. I think he took his photograph. I think he didn't give a second thought to the idea of extinguishing his specific, named life when plans were finally made. The idea that he saw his name in print or said it out loud makes my chest tighten up.
Individually assessed, targeted and discarded (along with other key personnel). My God.
It's beyond unsettling to think that a person capable of such violence has probably individually targeted and surveilled someone you love most in the world. Even though he carried out his attack with a great deal of success and there's no reason to think that he ever thought of my father again, it's still creepy to have someone so crazy and irrational walking around with your father's name tucked deep into the folds of his brain somwehere.
It is even more unsettling to think about what might have been and what did eventually, tragically, happen to other people at his direction, both before and after the embassy bombings in 1998.
It is personal, but I know that I am lucky to have had a distant-yet-personal brush with an insane man and escape relatively unscathed. I hope you don't think I'm telling a story for attention's sake or trying to draw my own, more than ten-years-old experience back to present day for any reason because really, I have long-since buried it and gotten over it and there are thousands of actual experiences that ended far more badly than mine.
It's just that last night's news made me inhale deeply and sigh with a kind of tangible, legitimate relief that I wasn't even aware I had been waiting for. That's all.