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Bin Laden’s dead, thank you all!

Tonight, The White House and President Barack Obama announced the death of Osama Bin Laden. I’m not going to go into the details — those are available all over the Internet.

What I will say is even though he was killed halfway around the world and the September 11, 2001 World Trade Center attacks he was responsible for are on the other side of the country, he has had an impact on my life. It’s been nearly a decade, but I still remember where I was when I heard about the attacks.

I was a sophomore in high school and my dad was driving me to school. We were in the car, about a block and a half away, when the attacks were announced on the radio. We were listening to a music station, not a news station. So the news didn’t really compute in my mind. For some reason, I thought it was a joke. But then I got to school and realized it was true. Teachers and students alike were talking about it and the TVs in the HUB (our cafeteria) were turned to the news. I couldn’t believe it. My family has friends in New York and while I’d only met them once in elementary school and didn’t know them well, my thoughts immediately went to them and I just hoped they were alright. Thankfully, everyone was okay.

Since then, I’m not going to lie, the war and September 11 haven’t always been a big part of my life or my thoughts. I’m sure I’m not the only one, either. Tonight’s news has just brought back those memories and of everything our country has been through for nearly a decade.

So I just want to take this opportunity to say something I don’t do nearly enough.

First, I want to say, “Thank you” to all of our troops, servicemen and servicewomen overseas fighting for our safety and freedom, and the intelligence agents who worked so hard on the operation that resulted in the head of Al-Qaeda‘s death. Support for the war has wavered these last nine years, but you kept at it and I just want to express my appreciation for your efforts. I can only imagine how much Bin Laden’s death must mean to you. Obviously, your work is not done, so I send you my prayers and thoughts for a safe return home when the time comes.

Thank you to both the Obama and Bush administrations. Say what you will about George W. Bush (I’ll admit that I’m not a fan), but he did not have an easy job. His efforts began what Obama finished, so we shouldn’t discount them just because he’s out of office.

I also want to thank the firefighters and other first responders who worked to put out the fires and rescue victims after the attacks. There’s been so much talk about the troops who are overseas right now that your efforts may have been forgotten. Your work may not have been a decade-long effort, but it was vital and appreciated.

The final thank you I want to send out is to all the journalists — American or otherwise — who have spent the last nine-plus years covering this war in the Middle East as well as other dangerous hot spots abroad. You have risked your lives just as much as the troops, probably to a greater extent since you do not have the training for such situations. I don’t want you to think your work has been forgotten. As a fellow journalist, I understand the importance of getting the story no matter what, but danger can often be a deterrent to dig deeper. For you, you just see it as a challenge and I admire you for it and am in constant awe. You are what it means to be a journalist.

As I watch clips of people celebrating in front of the White House as well as Ground Zero — especially at Ground Zero where many families of the 2,900-plus victims have gathered to celebrate — I just think what this must mean to those families. To finally see justice served to the man responsible for their loved ones’ lives. I’ll admit that some of those clips of crowds chanting “USA! USA! USA!” brings tears to my eyes. But they’re happy tears!

It is definitely a happy day for our country and a time to celebrate.

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