When international news gets personal - Word&Way

When international news gets personal

By Bill Webb

You see the most interesting-looking people in airports.

Yesterday in a terminal in Greensboro, N.C., I noticed a young lady who wasn't very tall and had a head full of curly black hair. We were waiting to board the same flight. What distinguished her was her uniform of military fatigues, the same color as those worn by U.S. soldiers serving in the Middle East. She carried a matching backpack.

As those of us in "Group 4" waited for our turn to board, I spoke briefly to her. She said she was on her way back to Kuwait. I joined another passenger in thanking her for her service to her country and citizens like us.

Two days earlier — on May 1 — I was attending a Baptist meeting at nearby Winston-Salem and was just about to go to bed after a long day. Before turning off the television in my hotel room, I checked to see how the Sunday night baseball game of the week was progressing.

That's when the announcer said the President of the United States was preparing to address the nation. He suggested ESPN would cut to President Obama as soon as the game ended. Minutes later came the word that the President would be informing the country — and the world — that Osama bin Laden himself had been killed.

Immediately, I began darting from one news channel to another to make sure I learned what was going on and to make sure I did not miss the President's remarks. The time for the speech was reset to 11 p.m. Eastern time, then delayed as the Commander-in-Chief and his staff continued to refine the important message.

Even before President Obama stood before the camera and the world, crowds of celebrators were catching wind of the news and began gathering in front of the White House and at the site of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center towers. Most of them cheered. Some chanted, "U.S.A."

Finally, the President came to the podium and delivered the news that the al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, had been killed in a U.S. Navy SEAL raid on a compound in Pakistan.

"Justice has been served," the President said.

After nearly 10 years the announcement that the world's most notorious terrorist had finally been tracked down and killed brought jubilation to some, relief to others and closure to many who lost family members and friends in the 2001 attack. To many, the news brought uneasiness and a dread of terrorist retaliation.

Pundits are still debating whether the killing of the terrorist leader significantly hurts al-Qaeda, or whether it further incites bin Laden's followers. Most agree that Americans at home and abroad, including the military, need to take extra precautions.

Here I was less than 48 hours later, making sure I arrived early for my flight in case security lines might be moving more slowly in light of the bin Laden announcement.

I really don't know who won the Sunday night baseball game, and I don't care. But I am glad the announcer alerted me to what was unfolding in the real world.

I don't pray for the outcome of sports competitions. But as I stood in line to board my flight, I said a silent prayer for this young soldier I had met and others serving in that part of the world right then and in the days ahead.

All of us would do well to faithfully pray for those who live in an increasingly dangerous world, including the choice people who risk trying to make it a safer place — whether they are uniformed soldiers or they make significant contributions in other ways.