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OPINION: Bringing justice to evildoers is part of American tradition

The entire country seems to have a bounce in its step this week, a smile on its face, an obvious feeling of satisfaction. I can't deny feeling the same way. The death of Osama bin Laden lifted a great weight off our minds. Sure, the United States...

The entire country seems to have a bounce in its step this week, a smile on its face, an obvious feeling of satisfaction.

I can't deny feeling the same way.

The death of Osama bin Laden lifted a great weight off our minds. Sure, the United States is still a target for Islamic extremists and other lunatic killers, but the threat was greatly reduced at the moment Navy SEALs burst into the room where bin Laden was holed up.

A few seconds later, he was on his way to an uncertain but hopefully fittingly hot eternity.

The news brought most of us back a decade, when we were startled by the vicious attack on America on Sept. 11, 2001. While it's still not completely clear how much of a role bin Laden played in those terrorist attacks, his joy at the pain that was caused, and his pledge to do more damage, was more than enough for America.

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He had declared himself our enemy and we had no choice but to accept the challenge. For nearly a full decade, we wondered and worried about him.

This tall, lean and mean millionaire had devoted his life to death, murder and mayhem. He had decided to take on the USA and dreamt of returning the world to a time of religious war and a primitive, vicious culture.

On Sept. 11, 2001, I was alerted to the report of the first plane striking the Twin Towers by my wife, Jill, who always enjoyed coffee and morning TV news more than I did.

She awakened me and told me of the news, which I shrugged off. A stray plane had collided with a very tall building, I thought.

Soon, she returned. I had worked until after midnight, and she was always considerate of our different schedules. But this time she made sure I knew of this development.

I sat up. We're under attack, I said. It was a realization millions of Americans had, and the start of a creeping feeling of worry that continued for days, weeks, months and years.

A few days later, a friend called me and advised me to watch a passing train. Jill and I were nearing the end of our time together, but we were very close that week, sharing the shock and fear. We drove to a nearby bridge to see the train head east.

It seemed endless, and every open-air car was packed with tanks. Dozens and then hundreds and finally thousands of tanks rolled past us.

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It drove home the point: This was war.

A good friend of mine was in New York City on 9/11. He had gone there to see a Yankees game and enjoy the sights. Instead, he and his friends were trapped in that devastated city.

I spoke with him when he returned to our small town in Montana and wrote a story about his experience. As the years clicked past, memories of those first few fragile days stayed fresh in my mind.

When I moved to home to South Dakota in 2005, I met my then-boss and still-friend Stu, who is from New York City.

His uncle worked at the World Trade Center and was killed in the 9/11 attack. Stu has written a moving account of his feelings that day.

On Monday, I called him up to tell him I was thinking of him. We discussed that terrible day and shared our thoughts on the death of bin Laden, who went to his demise with blood covering his hands and his legacy. He thanked me for calling.

The death of the most wanted man in the world doesn't lessen the pain Stu and others felt on Sept. 11, 2001, nor does it reduce the memory of the anxiety the rest of us have endured for so long.

But it showed once again that if you strike against the United States, be it the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, the cowardly murder of innocents in Oklahoma City or the madness of flying planes filled with terrified people into buildings in New York City, justice will finally be served.

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