Friday could not have begun more differently from the same date eight years ago, when a bright sun greeted New Yorkers as they prepared to vote in a mayoral primary. It was a day brimming with possibilities -- one that made you feel alive.
Eight years later, Sept. 11 featured gray skies and a steady rain. A day well-suited for grieving and remembrance. As New Yorkers hear the solemn roll call of the 2,700 who died at the twin towers the Obama administration called for Americans to dedicate themselves to public service.
Trying to inspire meaning from such an awful moment, is laudable, but many Americans still long for something else: closure. No, not in the New Agey way of some emotional comfort. We want the man behind the hideous attacks brought to justice. We want Osama bin Laden's head.
In the eight years since bin Laden's al Qaeda terror network launched a war on the U.S., we have routed them from their safe haven of Afghanistan, turning the rugged land into something resembling a democracy. To some, that suggests that bin Laden is a "failure." Technically, that is true. But it does not obscure the glaring fact that our foreign policy and national security -- and much of our national sensibility -- is guided by the reality of this bogey man that perpetually lingers out there.
Would everything suddenly change if there was certainty that bin Laden was dead? Probably not. But something would change. There would be sense of real assurance that the primary mission coming out of 9/11 -- getting the mastermind behind the worst attack on American soil -- had been achieved.
For that matter, even definite evidence (more than some videotape that could be bootlegged from who-knows-where) that he is still alive could give Americans a new sense of renewed purpose and concrete resolve that there remains unfinished business.
Grieving is necessary. Service to one's fellow citizens is a good thing. But what Americans really need eight years down the road is some certitude. Where is Osama bin Laden?
Because unless he is dead, he most certainly is not where he belongs