New York City has had 48 hours to digest the news that Osama Bin Laden, the man who masterminded the greatest horror in this city’s history, is dead.
To describe the initial reaction Sunday night as an outpouring of celebration and happiness would be an error. Yes, there were those who spontaneously gathered at Ground Zero and Times Square to celebrate that one of the most evil men in history had been brought to justice at the hands of President Obama and the Navy Seals. But the overall reaction of the city’s residents has been much more tempered.
Tempered. This is a city that has been tempered over the past 10 years. You don’t travel far in Manhattan without seeing reminders of that horrible day. Firehouses still hang the helmets of those who died trying to save others. When you ask firefighters how long they’ve been with NYFD, the most common answer is nine years – when the department had to go on a hiring binge to replace the 343 firefighters killed that day. You see pictures of loved ones lost in restaurants where their parents still work. You hear stories from co-workers of what they were doing that day. Policemen in New York -- 23 NYPD officers and 37 Port Authority officers died -- receive the type of deference and respect other major-city law enforcement officers don't enjoy.
Osama Bin Laden is dead. But so are the 3,000 people who died on September 11, 2001. While his death provides a modicum of closure, it provides little comfort to those wives whose husbands still aren’t coming home, to the children who still know their parents as photographs rather than people.
New Yorkers understand that. So while the city seems relieved and slightly pleased that the man who caused this is dead, there will be no ticker tape parades. In fact, the hope is that the President tomorrow when he visits Ground Zero doesn’t even mention Bin Laden’s name. Doing so, one newspaper editorialized this morning, would dishonor that hallowed ground.
There are the natural concerns about reprisals from single individuals who continue to suffer from the mental illness that the now-dead Saudi spread. But the people of this city are a stubborn and brusque lot. They will go about their business with a slightly heightened sense of awareness, but little fear. Being afraid hands the terrorists a victory; and people of New York are determined not to do that.