Terror, Strength and Balance

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When word came of President Barack Obama’s announcement last night, my husband and I sat down at 7:30 and waited. As the minutes ticked by, we listened to the speculation that the news wasn’t about Moammar Qaddafi and Libya. We started asking ourselves what other event would warrant a worldwide audience? I had a sense it was the death of Osama Bin Laden.

As we continued to wait, we speculated a drone attack was behind it…because the US has been conducting so many, relentlessly. However, the surprising details emerged that it was a targeted covert military operation. That was followed by the shock of finding out where the terrorist leader had been living, in comfort and now we are learning for years, in the middle of a Pakistani city.

As I’m sure so many families did, my husband and I gathered our children around to listen to the President’s speech when the moment finally arrived. We explained to them where we were when we first learned of the terror attacks, how it made us feel and what we did in response to them. I explained how destabilizing it felt for our country: that it was the first time Americans had been attacked on our own soil since the attack on Pearl Harbor during World War II. We then talked about my husband’s first reaction: considering going back into the military. He had just gotten out of the inactive reserves, after being on active duty in the Marine Corps for 8 years. He deployed several times – to places like Somalia. He had piloted his CH-46 helicopter into the country, one of the battle zones of Al-Qaeda, just after the now famous Blackhawk helicopter incident in which Americans troops weren’t just killed, but mutilated.

My husband left the military when we decided to have a family. When 9/11 happened, our children were just babies. I asked my husband if this time, I could serve instead – in my own field, in my own way. I went straight to work after I learned what happened and we stayed on air continuously. I cannot remember everything that I did, I only remember that I just kept talking. There was constantly new information coming in, and we had to tell people what to expect next and to try and keep things calm. I have always believed that quote “knowledge is power”. When we as a country felt powerless, we in the media tried to arm citizens with information. That’s continued to be my mission.

Watching the end of this era unfold on television, my husband and I also felt it was our responsibility to put it in perspective for our family. I explained to my sons that as historic this news was, the reality is terrorism will still exist. My husband explained what the word “deterrent” meant and under what specific circumstances a President would order someone killed. And we touched on the strange mixture of emotions Americans might be feeling: satisfaction that justice was served, sadness that our lives will remain forever changed, frustration that we can never feel 100% safe, ill at ease about celebrating anyone’s death, and finally joy at finally coming to the end of one horrifying chapter of American history.

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