The terrorist attacks in NYC and D.C. on September 11, 2001appear to have taken many years to plan and carry out. Osama bin Laden did not just appear from nowhere; he had apparently been masterminding and financing terrorist attacks against U.S. interests overseas for years. For many Americans, myself included, this was the first time hearing about Osama bin Laden (or at least hearing about him extensively and in detail). It would not be the last we would hear about him, however. Just as it took years to build up to the events of 9/11, the echo they have left in the minds of many Americans continues to last indefinitely. 9/11 was not just about what happened on a single day; it is turning out to be a moment that has implications both for the past and for the future. Late in the evening on May 1, 2011 (U.S. time) President Obama announced that Osama bin Laden had been killed in a U.S. military operation in Pakistan. Nearly ten years after 9/11, the U.S. had found Osama bin Laden, but his death still did not signal the end of any “war on terror.” If anything, it simply made it clear that in the last ten years, the “global war on terror” has grown so massive that the death of the figure behind 9/11 was relatively unimportant.
While it was still a significant political victory for Obama, the death of Osama bin Laden did not seem to have any noticeable effect on the overall issue of terrorism. Even though bin Laden was found living a more comfortable life than some had expected him to be living, there were also reports of him being marginalized from Al Qaeda and other organizations, likely because he was such a big target for the U.S., and would therefore attract too much attention. So even for the man behind 9/11, the implications of that day were much bigger and more lasting than he probably could have expected. In life and in death, bin Laden’s dreams had outgrown him.