On the West Coast, it was lunchtime. People were making sandwiches, taking naps, working, maybe taking the family out to a park in the nice weather.
In Pakistan, it was just after midnight, and U.S. special-operations forces were flying over a suburb and landing in a fortress where men with guns lived alongside women and children — and the most wanted man in the world.
While we were eating or napping, laughing or crying over our own personal dramas, a world away Navy SEALs and CIA operatives were in a gun battle with a courier, his brother and Osama bin Laden himself.
By the time President Barack Obama interrupted your regularly-scheduled program Sunday night, Osama bin Laden had been dead for several hours.
That was the strange part: The conductor of a nightmare symphony of suffering and death the world over was gone, and we had been going about our lives as usual.
In a Pakistan mansion surrounded by walls and barbed wire, men whose names we’ll probably never know were risking death to take a millionaire mastermind out of the equation.
While bin Laden was a terrorist video star, appearing on tapes to urge on his henchmen and taunt the people whose lives he ruined, the agents who killed him are mysteries. The media has identified them as SEALs, but a confirmation of even that paltry information hasn’t been forthcoming from the administration.
And concealed even deeper in the shadows are the operatives who made Sunday’s mission possible: the investigators, spies and technological geniuses who narrowed in on the man who was the face of modern terrorism. We will never know how they went about their work and the dangers they continue to live with day and night.
It is often said that the cost of freedom is never free, and that makes a nice bumper-sticker epigram. But on Sunday, we all were reminded of what it really means: Without our knowing it, without our even realizing who or what or how, people across the world are doing unheralded, exacting, ruthless work to pay back cost. Their lives could end in a moment and we would never know they existed at all — but our lives would be the poorer for it.
On Sunday, the world shared their triumph. On Monday, we all went about our business again — and so did they.