In New York City on any given morning, you might see an imam, a rabbi and a priest wave to each other and say “good morning” before going into their respective houses of worship to begin their day.

There are times when some lost soul in this country will decide to burn someone else’s holy book, or spray-paint a slur on a wall, or promote paranoid propaganda on the radio or TV; but for the most part, we are truly a melting pot in which the vast majority recognizes the rights of others to worship how they choose and freely express themselves.

That freedom is the crowning achievement of the United States, and it is what makes us great. When someone tries to violate the rights of others in this country, there are consequences. The rule of law protects people of all beliefs, races and walks of life.

Osama bin Laden did not share this vision. He and his accomplices used mass violence, and the threat of violence across the globe in an attempt to dictate how people live.

There were a lot of avenues available to a man of means such as bin Laden by which he could communicate his concerns about U.S. policy in the Mideast. He had money and influence. He could have organized non-violent protests, written books, pursued the media. He could have used his position to develop government and political process within his own country, and by default, the broader Mideast.

He chose violence and terror, killing 3,000 world citizens in New York City, the Pentagon and Shanksville, Pa.,  on a bright, sunny September morning in 2001. On that day, our comprehension of national security crumbled in the hands of a small band of men armed with box cutters. In the subsequent decade, the U.S. has done much soul searching — not enough, for many of us — but we continue to reflect on the bigger world and our role in it, all to an extent not done for generations.

And throughout that decade, bin Laden figured in our national psyche as our intelligence continued to ferret through the world for him. On April 30, he was found in Pakistan, behind compound walls wired shut, and shot to death by U.S. Navy Seals.

“The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat al-Qaida,” President Obama said. “Yet his death does not mark the end of our effort.”

Hunting down the mastermind and figurehead behind Sept. 11, though it took far too long, did something to restore our belief in our nation. We put his face on a wanted poster and we got him. We were united in that goal as we collectively stated, do not tear about our sense of security, tramp on our values, and get away with it.

Is bin Laden’s death a game changer? Is it a spark for more terrorism around the world? We do not know, but we prefer to believe that world citizens are celebrating the death not of a man, but of his ideas. But even more, a victory of human rights over terror, of civilization over anarchy.

The U.S. has much work to do with its foreign policy, which is shaped so heavily on our economy’s reliance on the flow of oil. But other factors, such as development of alternative energy sources, can shift our priorities. We can shape future intentions on that.

Perhaps by arresting the power of bin Laden, that street in New York City, where the imam, rabbi and priest greet each other each morning in peace and mutual respect, can inch ever so forward in being replicated in all corners of the world.