Osama bin Laden was killed at the age of 54 on Sunday, May 1, in the northern Pakistan city of Abbottabad, by U.S. intelligence forces who had been tracking a courier that was known to live there.
The Special Forces members, who have been carefully looking for signs of bin Laden since before 9/11, noticed the courier because he was living too far beyond his means in a heavily secured fortress of a house that had no phone or internet services.
There were telltale signs that someone of importance, who needed to be hidden, was stashed in that house.
No one in the Pakistani government was told of any suspicions or planned raids, and for good reason. It has long been believed that bin Laden was living in relative comfort in a nearby town with several family members, and with the knowledge and consent of the locals.
No members of the U.S. team were killed, five in bin Laden's camp were killed, including one of his wives, whom bin Laden was using as a human shield and one of his grown sons. U.S. forces took bin Laden's body with them to confirm that it was, indeed, bin Laden through photographic evidence and DNA testing. Once it was confirmed, the news was released and President Obama spoke to a grateful nation. The body of bin Laden was buried at sea to prevent any spontaneous and perpetual shrines to the mass murderer.
The man who took credit for masterminding the nearly 10-year-old murders of 2,977 people from every religion at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., aboard a plane that crashed into a field in Pennsylvania, and in the twin towers in New York City, is dead. Each of those families can rest easier knowing that bin Laden can not plot any further terrorist activities, or mock the efforts of those who believe that free choice is messy but always preferable.
Late Sunday evening after the news, there were spontaneous gatherings outside the White House in D.C., and down at Ground Zero in Manhattan. Many were singing patriotic songs they learned as a child, and some were even reveling in the jubilation of a war criminal being dead.
Some have called for a little more solemnity because, after all, more human life had been taken and they're right, but what happened in 2011 changed everything, for some more than others.
To put things in perspective, 3,051 children in NYC lost a parent on 9/11 and 1,069 people lost a spouse or partner. Across America, 20 percent of the entire population knew someone who was killed on that day. Applications to the CIA increased by 40 percent after that bright Tuesday morning, but perhaps as a more peaceful sign, the Peace Corps applications went up by an even higher 50 percent.
We've made some mistakes as a country since that day trying to keep terrorism at bay, including the thousands of hate crimes against Moslems in this country that have been reported and the thousands that were not. Lashing out against anyone because of their religion, ethnicity, gender or any other characteristic or label is wrong, and particularly in a free democracy. Argue all you want, but save the name-calling and the fighting for your bathroom mirror.
However, ending the life of someone who so brutally swept away thousands of innocent lives, with plans to do even further harm, is not wrong. There are consequences for everything, including in a free society.
It's popular in some circles in America to constantly apologize for being American, for having so much and for doing what some consider so little.
But, at best, it's naive to stand around in jeans that were bought at Target, holding a Starbucks cup while listening to an R&B song on an iPhone, standing in a crowded grocery store aisle, and complain about what the U.S. government is doing to others without being willing to drop all of the layers of comfort and hand it over to someone else.
Instead, try on a little gratitude as a contrary action for all of the service men and women all over the globe who willingly sign on the dotted line to protect and serve with the possibility of a much shorter life term, so that we can try out the new flaming Doritos or watch the latest celebrity gossip.
It's probably a certainty that someone will try and step forward to fill bin Laden's shoes and continue to terrorize others, but it's also never an excuse to do nothing but rail at our neighbors as we casually take another sip before complaining about the high price of fuel.
It's true we don't need to celebrate at the death of our enemies, but we can stop apologizing when it happens, too. Thank you to all of our service men and women everywhere from a mostly grateful nation.
Tweet me @MarthaRandolph, and let me know how you think we're doing.
Martha's column is distributed by Cagle Cartoons, Inc., newspaper syndicate. E-mail Martha at Martha@caglecartoons.com.