Years from now, with generations long passed, we will better understand the bookends of our times. The first started an era and came on that blue-sky morning of Sept. 11, when the Twin Towers fell and, in an instant, the world changed.
The second came last night, when word spread like wildfire. What? Bin Laden dead?

Yes, yes, thank God, yes.

Nobody alive will ever forget where they were on 9/11 and where they were last night.

In between, there were nearly 10 full years of global conflict, where the brave and heroic forces of civilization -- mostly American -- fought and died confronting an alien savagery and the man who commanded it.

As both President Obama and President George W. Bush have made clear, America did not start or seek this war, but we would finish it. The death of bin Laden now marks the single biggest victory in that long campaign. It has been a conflict unlike any other.

The merciless attack on civilians, houses of worship, trains and planes, markets and office towers, was the most identifying mark of their declared war on us.

It was nihilism, pure destruction aimed at defeating the human spirit, erasing modernism and undoing 1,400 years of human progress. At times it has felt as though this evil force would succeed.

Not because it had sufficient followers, but because its wanton bloodlust threatened to paralyze the combined forces of democracy. It frayed the bonds of unity and divided nations that should have been partners.

Yet we fought on grimly and gallantly because, ultimately, our lives and our liberty hung in the balance. Not in the same ways it did in the Great Wars, when armies faced off with awful mechanized death.

The War on Terror, and terror's war on us, was so pernicious because it was asymmetrical and often invisible. It dragged on longer than any other war and threatened to sap the spirit among a weary and frightened public. If only there was some way to make peace. But there was no way because our existence, our freedoms, are inconsistent with militant Islam.

There was no reforming jihadists. They decided that one of us had to perish. But as Obama confirmed the news, America exhaled and its allies joined in our relief.

Justice had prevailed and the man who set the world on fire was dead. If this isn't winning, it's damn close. For sure, the evil philosophy he personified will live on.

For years now, "Bin Ladenism" has been more of a threat than bin Laden as his affiliates and wannabes copied his assault on the innocent while he was holed up in caves or hiding out from our intelligence agents.

Yet those marvelous agents cornered him in Pakistan, an operation that Obama appropriately hailed as a testament to "the greatness of our country."

And with Bush later adding his thoughts, it is possible to imagine that a new day is dawning. No, the war is not over.
We can expect desperate bids at retaliation, and it is possible "sleeper" cells are awaiting just this incident to launch their missions. But a long, bloody chapter ended in a firefight in Pakistan.

The man who launched the madness has now, finally, met the fate he so long deserved and America has kept faith with those who went to work on 9/11 and never came home. A promise made, a promise kept.

Michael Goodwin is a New York Post columnist and Fox News contributor. This column originally appeared in the New York Post.