Osama bin Laden didn't discriminate when it came to the bloody work of terrorism. He was an equal opportunity killer.
And now that he is dead, killed sometime yesterday by a team of Navy SEALS in Pakistan, Americans of all races and religions have taken to the streets and to the blogosphere and airwaves to share in what seems to be a deep and collective exhale. From the gates of the White House in Washington, D.C. to ground zero in New York City, people have come together chanting and waving flags, exhibiting the kind of unity seen last on that terrible day in September almost 10 years earlier.
"Everyone died on 9-11. Blacks, whites, Muslims, Latinos and working class people," said the Rev. Al Sharpton. "He didn't care who was in those buildings or on that plane. All Americans shared in that pain and all Americans can share in what we are seeing today."
The Rev. Jesse Jackson called bin Laden's death a "huge psychological victory."
"It is a cause for celebration. So many people lost their lives, their family members lost their lives. It was such a traumatic blow," Jackson said. "This might be the first real emotional venting for the pain that came from 9-11, the kind of relief that the plotter had destroyed."
Jackson warned, though, that while bin Laden's death marks some closure, the American people must be vigilant.
"The chapter on bin Laden ends now, but not the chapter on terrorism," he said.
Keith L.T. Wright, a New York State Assemblyman who represents Harlem, said while there is understandable satisfaction in bin Laden's death, there should also be caution.
"We, as New Yorkers and Americans, have to be more careful now than we have ever been," Wright said. "We have to come together as New Yorkers and we also have to start looking over our shoulders because you never know, it could be a bus stop, a school, a subway stop or an airport. We have to be more mindful than ever."
The terror spurred by Al-Qaeda, bin Laden's terror organization, struck blindly, targeting people and places regardless of race, class or even religion.
In 1988, Al-Qaeda killed some 225 people and injured hundreds of others in simultaneous bombings of U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. In 2001, the victims of the World Trade Center included white and blue-collar workers alike, those working in the mailrooms as well as wealthy investment bankers.
"The people who had worked before nine in the morning, those workers were not the rich," Sharpton said. "And the people on the planes that died, the people in coach went with those in first class."
Both Jackson and Sharpton said that while the mission to capture or kill bin Laden has been a success, what President Obama does next is critical. Jackson said bin Laden's killing in a bustling suburb outside of Islamabad, Pakistan's capital, raises questions about how much the Pakistani government knew about bin Laden's whereabouts.
"I would hope, as a supporter of the President, that we take a reasonable amount of time to make sure there is no retaliation, and then start to dial back on the build up in Afghanistan," Sharpton said. "Because if bin Laden was who he was supposed to be, we don't need to place our resources there."
For black Americans, the killing of bin Laden signaled not only a great day for America, but for the black American President.
"People are celebrating the fact that our president was able to get the job done, certainly there should be an awful lot of pride in the fact that he was able to get the job done," said Wright, the Harlem assemblyman.
"The irony is that while everyone was running around trying to muddy him up with that birth certificate nonsense, he was busy dealing with capturing the world's most notorious terrorist mastermind," Sharpton said. "It says he can see the bigger picture and that he knows how to be cool under fire."
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