Chaplain Col. Robert L. Marciano was relaxing Sunday night at the rectory of Our Lady of Good Hope Parish in Mapleville, R.I. when he received a text message from a friend in the military that al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden had been killed in a daring operation in Pakistan led by U.S. Navy SEALs.
Immediately, thoughts flooded back to the pastor of those difficult days following the 9/11 attacks when he and other military chaplains would suit up and wade through the destruction at the Pentagon to offer prayers for the dead as the remains of the 184 victims there were recovered.
“It was a dark time. When we first arrived and saw the damage, it was still smoldering,” recalls Father Marciano, who initially served three weeks as a chaplain at the Pentagon following the terrorist attacks.
He would return to the Pentagon from 2006-2010 to serve as chief of chaplains for the U.S. Air National Guard. He now serves as state command chaplain for the Rhode Island National Guard.
“I certainly feel for the families. The mastermind behind the carnage has been brought to justice.”
Although he admits it is difficult to rejoice when someone is dead, Father Marciano believes that the United States’ relentless pursuit of bin Laden, who he called “the chief criminal of the world,” will send a strong message to terrorists that they will pay a price for the harm they do to others.
“It was done right, and in this case, there was no other alternative,” he said. “You can run and you can hide, but our intelligence forces are going to get you.”
Fr. Marciano said he never doubted that bin Laden, who was captured and killed May 1 by U.S. forces in a residential compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan after being in hiding for nearly 10 years since the 9/11 attacks, would one day be found.
“He was elusive and he was protected by that culture—which considers him a hero—but it was only a matter of time,” he said. “Justice had to be done. It’s a huge chapter that was still open.”
“We all pray for a day when there will be peace.”
Printed with permission from the Rhode Island Catholic, newspaper for the Diocese of Providence, R.I.