Just the other day I asked a group of friend what they thought the biggest news story of our lifetime was. Almost everyone said 9/11.
It’s pretty much impossible to argue that any event has had such a dramatic and profound impact on today’s world as that shocking day.
Although half of Americans believe some kind of conspiracy theory about 9/11, it’s universally agreed that the mastermind behind the attacks was Osama Bin Laden. A man who immediately jumped to number one on the FBI’s Most Wanted list in the aftermath of 9/11.
Although nobody has ever seen a photo of a deceased Bin Laden, we’re told he was killed by U.S Navy Seal Robert O’Neill who was part of the special forces team that stormed Bin Laden’s compound in Abottabad, Pakistan in 2011.
When O’Neill was placed on that mission he had no idea that his team would discover Bin Laden, a man known for being elusive. Nor did he consider that he would be the one to silence America’s greatest enemy.
That fateful day occurred six years ago this week, and O’Neill marked the occasion by retelling the story on Good Morning Britain this morning. You can see the video below.
Here’s the key part of O’Neill’s remarkable story.
The team entered bin Laden’s complex and eliminated several targets – including his son Khalid – before myself and a colleague opened a door to where we believed he was hiding.
I turned to the right and standing there, three feet in front of me with his hands on his wife, was Osama bin Laden.
He was pushing his wife towards us and, in that moment, I assumed he was a suicide bomber because he wasn’t surrendering, he was a threat.
[I thought] that’s definitely him, even though his beard is shorter, that’s his nose, those were all my thoughts in the course of a second.
So I took care of him the way you take care of a suicide bomber and I shot him in the face twice and once more when he fell down.
One of my guys said “are you ok?” I said “what do we do now?” and he said “we need to find the computers, we’ve done this hundreds of times”. I said “you’re right, I’m back”.
Despite his actions O’Neill says he does not feel like a hero, simply honoured to be part of the team who were selected for such a high-profile mission. “We were honoured but we were very serious because we knew it was probably a one-way mission. I personally didn’t think we were going to come back.”
Although I understand why O’Neill would say he doesn’t feel heroic, few people have taken more important shots in history. If what we’re told about Bin Laden is correct, the man is not only responsible for the deaths of 2,996 people, but his actions had huge repercussions across the middle east.
The Iraq war, the Syria war, the rise of ISIS and other militant groups in the region are all by-products of 9/11. Sadly, all three of those by-products have been responsible for countless deaths of innocent people, not to mention massive displacement of people; hunger, poverty and desperation.
With the current state of international affairs it’s difficult to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Which if taken to it’s natural conclusion could mean the impact Bin Laden had on this world will not only be horrific, but indefinite.
I can only hope that’s not the case and we find a way to be at peace before tens of thousands more people have to lose their lives.