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Osama bin Laden and America's long journey from 9/11 to 5/1

The killing of Osama bin Laden means that, for the first time in years, there may be a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

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In the early morning of Sept. 11, 2001, I walked to my office in the Old Executive Office Building, part of the White House complex. It was a cool, sunny day with a crystal-blue sky. As director for NATO and Western European Affairs at the National Security Council, I was en route to a staff meeting where we planned to discuss, among other things, the agenda for the 2002 NATO Summit in Prague, Czech Republic.

Passing a television screen on the way, I saw one of the World Trade Center towers in a smoky fire, and a secretary explained it had been hit by an airplane. Strange. When I stepped out of the meeting, I stood and watched as another plane hit the second tower. This was no accident.

I went to my desk, and an e-mail from the security office blasted in red letters – “Leave the building immediately.” In the stairway, colleagues talked about a plane having hit the Pentagon. The rest of the day was a mixture of shock and struggle: watching images of the collapsing buildings; realizing I was alive only due to the heroism of passengers on the fourth aircraft, which crashed in Pennsylvania; trying to communicate with my wife through jammed cellphone lines; gathering our young children.

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