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Commentary: Bin Laden's Death An Opportunity For Unity04:07
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Dionne Layne, facing the camera, hugs Mary Power at Ground Zero in New York City Monday as they react to Osama bin Laden's death. (AP)
Dionne Layne, facing the camera, hugs Mary Power at Ground Zero in New York City Monday as they react to Osama bin Laden's death. (AP)

Osama bin Laden's death has prompted many people to look back on the attacks of Sept. 11, including Harvard Business School professor and historian, Nancy Koehn, who offers this commentary


This is clearly a big story — it has grabbed the attention and energies of the nation. So far, most of the media coverage has focused on the facts of bin Laden’s assassination, the burial at sea and the consequences of his death for al Qaida and international security.

All of this is very important.

But there is another story behind the immediacy of the who, what, where and why of bin Laden’s killing. This other story has a long arc, one that stretches back to the crystalline sunshine and deep blue sky of that September morning almost 10 years ago — one that is not captured in the standard reporting.

Virtually every American over the age of 20 remembers where we were when we learned that two hijacked airliners had crashed into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.

Individually and as a nation, we were stunned. Almost 3,000 lives were taken that day. An astounding, terrible loss. One that, as President Obama reminded us, left “a gaping hole in our hearts.”

But in the midst of the chaos and death and fear and destruction, there was another drama unfolding.

This was a story of goodness and courage and ingenuity and outstretched hands. We saw this in the firemen rushing into the wreckage of the World Trade Center. We heard it on the recordings of cellphone calls placed from United Flight 93 where passengers wrestled control of the airliner from terrorists. We experienced it ourselves as we each sought ways to help and serve.

In the days after the attacks, we learned of countless acts of heroism and kindness that flowed out of many, many Americans — toward each other and our country.

In a moment of great need and big wounds, Americans were listening to what Abraham Lincoln once called “the better angels of our nature.”

So what might we do today — in another turbulent moment with very high stakes — to rekindle the spirit, unity and resolve that grew out of Sept. 11? And how might we go about doing this, individually and collectively?

These are the points of light and possibility in all the killing and loss. Let us not lose sight of them here and now, in the tsunami of facts and information about the death of Osama bin Laden.

This segment aired on May 6, 2011.

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