Amessage to Osama bin Laden on the one-year anniversary of his terror:
If you are dead, you failed, because you are not in some blessed place, sitting under the Yum Yum tree. You are in a corner of hell reserved for murderers.
And if you live on, you failed, too. Because you are hidden in some cave in a forsaken corner of the world, forced to recognize the truth: What you sought to weaken, you fortified. What you sought to terrorize, you emboldened.
How does it feel, to have so woefully miscalculated? We are smarter, stronger, more aware and more involved. We treat our neighbors with more patience and our country with more love.
If you sought to destroy our spirit, you failed.
If you sought to destroy our will, you failed.
And if you sought to destroy our institutions, you failed, big time, even on the very day you had the advantage. One of the four planes you stole last Sept. 11 did not even make its mark. It was retaken by passengers who proved there is no need to fear you or your cowardly henchmen. With two words, “Let’s roll,” that plane was driven into the ground, and instead of taking down a monument, it became one. Its Pennsylvania crash site is an inspirational place.
For us, not for you.
You gave us something to feel good about.
How does it feel?
If you planned on demoralizing us, you failed.
If you planned on dividing us, you failed.
If you planned on destabilizing us, we’re still here. Our streets, our schools, our government, our freedom. You, on the other hand, lost your sand lot. You lost your real estate. You lost your roof and your umbrella, your shelter from the storm, you lost something all of us can claim, but you no longer can. You lost your home.
You lost your friendly host, the Taliban. You lost caves and training camps and what little infrastructure you had. You scatter with a breeze, leaving maps and tapes and bags and boots as you race for a place to hide, a bug scampering behind the refrigerator. Do you think people are inspired by such flight? Do you think people admire it?
If you sought to command respect, you failed.
And if you sought to affect our patriotism — well, you couldn’t have done much worse. In a single day, thanks to your heinous act, this nation transformed, from a people who saw their country as a place worth enjoying, to a people who saw their country as a place worth saving.
You made us fierce. You made us united. You made us mad, and that’s a deadly thing to do.
But if you sought to make us fear you, you failed.
If you sought to make us respect you, you failed.
If you sought to make us listen to you, you failed. Most people don’t even bother with the translation of your cryptic messages anymore. We flip channels. We move on. We ignore your hate.
If you sought to win converts, you lost.
If you sought to make things better for your people, you lost.
If you sought to rally Muslims to your warped and pathetic view, you lost more than you can calculate. Life has rarely been worse for those who follow your religion. They are scrutinized, harassed, singled out and picked on. They hate this. But they hate you more for bringing it upon them. You did not gain their allegiance, only their wrath.
If you sought to unnerve us, you lost.
If you sought to undermine us, you lost.
If you sought to put a permanent dent in the American economy, well, look again. The airlines are still flying. Wall Street still functions. Your financial flow, on the other hand, has never been more scrutinized. And while we haven’t shut off every faucet, we’ve shut a few. The world is not your ATM anymore.
How does it feel?
If you dreamed of victory, you failed.
If you dreamed of domination, you failed.
If you dreamed of Muslims on one side, Westerners on the other, you failed.
And if you dreamed of glory and righteousness and, most of all, your god’s blessing — you do not have it. No matter how many times you invoke his name, you do not have it. No god loves you. No god forgives you. No god blesses you. No god condones you.
Today we remember your day of destruction, but not you. Today we honor those who fell, but not you. We suffered that day, we suffered and we grieved, but then we did what we do best. We came back stronger. We came back united. We stood up straight and resolved more than ever that our way of life is precious and true and loving and right.
We buried our dead. We mourned for them. Today, we remember. But tomorrow, the world goes on.
You failed, bin Laden, in every important way. It is one year after your fire in the sky. We’ve cleaned up our ashes.
The only ones left are yours.
Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Listen to “The Mitch Albom Show” 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760).