Former U.S. Navy SEAL Team 6 member Robert O'Neill discussed Operation Neptune Spear, the mission that resulted in Osama bin Laden's death on May 1, 2011, in a special conversation held in the 9/11 Memorial Museum for members of the 9/11 community yesterday. Today marks the fourth anniversary of bin Laden’s death.
Before the event, O’Neill met with 9/11 family members in the Museum’s Foundation Hall, where the shirt he wore during the mission and other related artifacts are on display.
O’Neill then told a detailed story from his perspective about killing bin Laden and answered questions from an audience consisting of first responders, 9/11 family members, veterans and 9/11 survivors. Below are some topics O’Neill touched on:
His motivation for the mission: “I remember talking to the guys; there was never a hesitation. We’re going now, we’re going to do this for – the person I always bring up is the single mom that went to work on Tuesday morning and then decided it’s better to jump to her death than burn alive. We went for her. We went for the firefighters who were running up as everyone was running down. We went for everybody.”
Accepting the likelihood of death during the mission: “We accepted it; we weren’t afraid. We had been fighting since 9/11 almost to a point to get to a spot of preparedness to be good enough to get this mission done. This was a means – proof of concept, ‘we’re going to be able to do this,’ and we’re not coming back.”
Killing bin Laden: “A foot and a half in front of me was Osama bin Laden. And I shot him twice, and then once more. And it didn’t really sink in; the wife sort of came at me and there was like, two-year-old kid there. So I pulled her over to the bed and grabbed the kid. And I remember thinking to grab the kid because he had nothing to do with this. I don’t want him to be afraid. So I picked him up, put him with the wife. I turned around, other SEALs were coming in the room, and I kind of stopped there and looked at them. … [One of the SEALs] was looking at me, and said ‘Are you OK?’ I said ‘What do we do now?’ And he laughed and put his hand on my shoulder, and he said, ‘Now we go find the computers.’”
By Jordan Friedman, 9/11 Memorial Research and Digital Projects Associate