There is a moment of terror frozen in osama bin laden’s mind, and I wish I was there to have seen it. For there is a moment of terror he has frozen in my mind.
On a bright, sunny, cloudless, blue-sky September day a decade ago I watched in stunned disbelief and horrible sadness as the events unfolded – and felt the same horrible emotions as all Americans that day - anger, sadness, disbelief, confusion, helplessness – and there was nothing I could do.
I watched a feeble but defiant act that morning as 3 New York City Firefighters raised our flag on a makeshift flagpole in the midst of that rubble mere hours after the attack, for even in the face of this horrible adversity, they were determined to fly the American flag.
Inspired by them, I climbed up onto the roof of my house, erected the tallest flagpole possible, and hoisted the biggest American flag I could find – in my own act of defiance – for it was all I could do.
For years, I refused to ever fly it at half mast, and against protocol, even to take it down at night, for no terrorist was ever going to make me lower my American flag. Flying that flag high was all I could do to grieve, and to heal myself from the events of that day.
In time, I began to realize that same American flag had flown for over 200 hundred years and over a thousand American battlefields, in so many wars and battles we have been victorious in, but being a such peace–loving people, have never wanted to fight - so many times refusing until we are finally forced to battle.
I have seen this flag raised high at Trenton, Yorktown, Gettysburg, Antietam and Appomattox, at San Juan Hill, Bellau Wood, and over American aircraft carriers after an improbable victory near Midway Island. The flag has flown at Utah and Omaha beaches, liberated Paris, over Hitler’s fortress in Bavaria and the Vietnams Veteran’s Memorial in Washington. We’ve placed this flag on the moon, sent it in peace on space probes leaving our solar system, and it flies in still unsettled places like Bagdad, Kabul and Fallujah. At every natural disaster around the globe out flag proudly flies because it is American ships and troops who arrive first on the scene first to provide aid.
In another important act of American defiance, our flag still flies today, and everyday, over the USS Arizona, sunk 70 years ago in a horrible surprise attack by an undeclared foe. Though a sunken wreck, it is still a commissioned ship in the US Navy, and it’s from there, that Navy, that today’s American heroes are born.
There is a moment of terror frozen in osama bin laden’s mind. I wasn’t there to see it but I am sure of what happened. (You will notice that I refuse to even capitalize his name, to even give that honor to a murderer, terrorist, and evil sociopath who caused so many countless humans hurt, anger, sadness and loss.)
As osama awoke in the early morning, there were aircraft overhead, confusing, troubling action and the sound of explosions, much like a bright sunny, cloudless, blue-sky September day a decade ago. I don’t know when he first saw them, our Navy SEALS – did they come around a corner, or were they running down a hall, or did they burst into his room? I wasn’t there, I didn’t have to be, because I already know what he saw.
There is a moment frozen in time, osama’s last moment. It was finally HIS moment of terror. Uncertain who was invading his lair, but now realizing that the whole planet wasn’t a big enough place to hide from American justice, he was confronted by a soldier, a Navy SEAL. Just seconds before his end, his impending death, he caught something on the SEALS’s shoulder - a bright patch of red, and white, and blue – the American flag - in his last conscious second, as our bullet pierced his eye, he was staring at the American flag.
Copyright Bob Rushok