Osama bin Laden's death at the hands of an elite Navy team opened a wellspring of emotions for a nation that's been waiting nearly a decade for the news.
Jubilation. Apprehension. Relief. Gratitude. Satisfaction. Hope.
Our joy in learning this mass murderer will never unleash another twisted plot to kill unsuspecting innocents motivated thousands of Americans to celebrate in the streets.
The raucous demonstrations were a little too reminiscent of Third World street scenes, where the rants are aimed at America.
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Given the nearly 3,000 Americans who died on 9/11, the more than 6,000 lives lost by coalition members fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the certain knowledge that many more lives will be lost in the war on terror, a more solemn reaction seems appropriate.
But even without the celebrations at Ground Zero and in front of the White House, there would be no hiding America's elation over bin Laden's demise.
Images of cheering crowds in Washington, D.C., New York and elsewhere will help steel the resolve of madmen already planning their revenge.
But it hardly matters. Al-Qaida will be desperate to prove it remains a force for evil regardless. It's the reason Americans felt their joy tempered by apprehension upon learning of bin Laden's death.
But our anxiety over where the terrorists will strike next doesn't alter the relief and gratitude we felt in learning that bin Laden's decade in hiding ended at the hands of American forces.
The bravery and capability demonstrated in the flawless raid are sources of comfort and pride for all Americans.
Two dozen Navy SEALs in night-vision goggles rappelled from Chinook helicopters into a fortified compound in Pakistan during the night, killing bin Laden and confiscating his body without any American casualties.
America's pledge to bring the criminals responsible for 9/11 to justice was fulfilled by this mission.
Death by natural causesin some cave along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, which had seemed a likely end to bin Laden, wouldn't have satisfied our desire for justice in quite the same way.
Bin Laden's freedom mocked America. He only had to evade capture to prove that America was impotent to bring the worst murderer in our history to justice.
It feels good to stifle that message.
But of all the emotions unleashed by bin Laden's death, hope is the one we ought to cling to.
Let's hope the West finds new ways to enlist the millions of moderate Muslims throughout the world in the fight against terror. They've suffered as much as anyone at the hands of al-Qaida.
Let's hope our nation benefits from the sense of unity that comes with such defining moments in our history.
President Obama, in announcing the news Sunday evening, hearkened back to the way that terrible attack on a soil a decade ago brought us together.
"Let us think back to the sense of unity that prevailed on 9/11," Obama suggested. "I know that it has, at times, frayed. Yet today's achievement is a testament to the greatness of our country and the determination of the American people."
No one thinks the end of bin Laden means the end of the war on terrorism. But let's hope that we've seen the beginning of the end.