Chief Curator Tells Story Behind ‘Maya’s’ Challenge Coin

Operation Neptune Spear commemorative coins are displayed at the 9/11 Memorial Museum. One of them has a red X on it and the other says May 1, 2011.
Operation Neptune Spear commemorative coins. Collection of 9/11 Memorial Museum, gift of CIA officer "Maya." Photo by Jenny Pachucki.

On May 2, 2011, the 10-year quest to bring al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden to justice ended with the U.S. Navy SEAL’s successful execution of Operation Neptune Spear. In the spring of 2014, 9/11 Memorial Museum staff received a donation of a military-issued challenge coin that commemorates  the work of the United States military, national security and intelligence communities  to successfully carry out this mission. The coin is on view in the museum with other artifacts that tell the story of this raid.

The coin was donated to the museum by the CIA operative known by the alias “Maya” who had devoted her career to tracking bin Laden. It was her intelligence that helped to locate the location of bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Kathryn Bigelow presents a dramatized account of “Maya’s” story in the popular 2012 film, Zero Dark Thirty.

Listen to Chief Curator Jan Ramirez recount her meeting with “Maya” and explain the story behind this special artifact.

By Jenny Pachucki, 9/11 Memorial Content Strategist

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