May 2, 2011

Osama Bin Laden is Dead

It's days like today that you are proud to wake up and call yourself an American. Our boys in the military have finally done what many thought might never happen. It was quite a shock when I woke up this morning at 1:30 to hear the news, Osama Bin Laden was dead.
Veteran Reporter Marvin Scott reporting from Times Square
Today just so happened to be a day that I was scheduled to work. I quit my Television News Photographer job nine months ago to take care of my kids and I have been back at the station on a freelance basis a total of four times since. What a day to go back and to be thrust in the middle of it, Times Square. I usually hate large crowds, but I can make an exception for today's flag waving celebration.  Any day I can see everyone united is a great day!
I can't believe that it has almost been 10 years since that horrible September day. Working in news in New York City the question always came up as to where I was that day. I had no story, I was scheduled to work in the afternoon and by the time that I actually got out of bed the first tower had already been hit. I, like a lot of people, watched the events unfold from home half thinking I NEED to be in the city, and half thanking my lucky stars that I wasn't there. My wife was working in the city at the time and hearing the uncertainty of what was going on in her voice, and the panic that everyone was feeling, it was not something I wanted to be a part of.  There was a part of me though that wished I was there, I was a journalist after all and there was no bigger story than what was transpiring on that day.

It took me until the next day to finally get into work. Fifteen hour days were the norm that week and most of my time was spent following families from hospital to hospital looking for lost family members. I remember working with Julian Phillips the day after the attacks following one family in particular. We must have gone to five hospitals searching for any word of their lost relative, with no luck.  It was a pretty draining day for me as this was the closest I would come to knowing anyone that was lost that day. I only knew of one person that worked in the towers and she was fortunately having a prescheduled doctors appointment that morning.   She most likely would have been in the towers had that not been the case. I was lucky. The same could not be said for the families of the over 3,000 people that died that day.

I think about all that has changed in the past ten years. No longer am I the 27 year old newlywed with no kids, I am now 37, married for over ten years, with two awesome kids. I enjoyed a successful career in television news but my days are now spent as a stay at home dad raising my two boys (and writing about them). I am fortunate to get this time with them as I also think about the many kids that were born after their fathers were killed in the attacks. There were too many stories of firefighters who left pregnant wives behind and countless stories of little kids that lost their father or mother that day. I don't know how people were able to cope, but as they say time heals all wounds.  This one though was a big one, one I am not so sure even 10 years could heal.

I think also of all the people that lost their kids that day, a parent having to bury their child has got to be the worst thing imaginable, and I pray to God it's something I will never have to do. If I lost my child you might as well take the life out of me.  We spoke to Lee Ielpi this morning who lost a firefighter son in the attacks, and while he was elated to hear the news of Bin Laden's death, it still would never bring back his best friend, his son Jonathan.
As the events of the past day unfold I am also reminded of the type of place this country was in the days and months after the attack. There was no black, white, Jewish, Catholic, Republican, Democrat, there was AMERICAN. We were united under one flag, everyone bled red, white, and blue. Somewhere in the past ten years all that changed. We forgot about what brought us together and started arguing about every issue under the sun. Not everything has to be about politics, but I am afraid that is what it has come to in this country.
Now that Bin Laden is dead, my hope is that for at least a few days we can put all of our differences aside and focus on one thing, how great it is to be an American.  My kids live in the best country in the world and I want to keep it that way.

John Willey - Daddy's in Charge?


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