For Former Governor Ridge, Hunt for Bin Laden Was Personal

By Mike Wereschagin; Salena Zito | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, May 2, 2011 | Go to article overview
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For Former Governor Ridge, Hunt for Bin Laden Was Personal

Mike Wereschagin; Salena Zito, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

For Tom Ridge, the United States' first secretary of Homeland Security, the hunt for Osama bin Laden became personal.

He was Pennsylvania governor on Sept. 11, 2001, when United Airlines Flight 93 slammed into a rural area in Somerset County in a series of terrorist attacks planned by the al Qaida leader.

"It's perhaps not as personal as it is to the families who endured the loss, but it is personal because I was at the scene with them the days after the crash," he said.

Ridge said the announcement of bin Laden's death was sobering, "in the sense that while we have kept our commitment to ourselves and the families and to those who wanted us to kill Osama, we know it's still not the end of this radical ideology."

Ridge was tapped to be first United States Secretary of Homeland Security less than a month after the attacks. The department was formed in response to the attacks and the uncertainty about future al Qaida strikes.

"This is a dramatic close to a painful 10-year chapter in America, and we made good on our promise to bring him to justice," he said. Ridge cautioned that Americans should not let their guard down,

"We killed this evil man, but we did not destroy the evil ideology that attracts people to Islamic terrorism." he said al Qaida has new leaders, locations and tactics.

Ridge said he was proud that President Obama took up the charge last fall to continue President Bush's mantra of bringing bin Laden to justice.

As U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney traveled through Afghanistan and Pakistan just over a week ago, he asked the same question everywhere he went.

"We asked where we were in the hunt for bin Laden," Rooney said.

"The question was always met with assurances from Special Ops that they were doing the best they can, but terrain and security was always cited as a problem in finding him."

Last night he got a more definitive answer, when President Obama announced to the country that special forces had killed the terrorist leader.

"This day will be remembered as a great day in fight against terrorism," said Rooney, a member of the Pittsburgh family that owns the Steelers, and a sophomore congressman who sits on both the House Armed Services and Intelligence committees.

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