Americans React To Osama Bin Laden's Death: In Towns And Cities Across The United States, A Range Of Emotions
This story was written and reported in collaboration with our partners at Patch.com.
Rosemary Cain awoke late Sunday to a phone call.
“Osama bin Laden is dead,” the woman on the other line said.
Cain, a resident of Massapequa, N.Y., had lost her son, George, in the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. George, 35, was a New York City firefighter in Ladder Company 7.
The call came from another mother whose child had died in the attacks.
“It is good news,” Rosemary Cain told a reporter on Sunday. But she wouldn’t say she felt a sense of closure. "I don’t know what closure is,” she said. “No, my son is still gone. “
Around the country, reactions from those whose lives had been particularly touched by the attacks varied. There was joy, of course. And satisfaction. And joy and satisfaction tempered by thoughts of loved ones who’d died on Sept. 11 or by concern for Americans still fighting overseas.
“You know I’m not sure what the right word is,” said Cheryl Desmarais, of Millburn, N.J., whose husband, Mark Charette, died in the World Trade Center, when asked to describe how she felt.
“’Happy’ is a funny word to use. But this is the man responsible for my husband’s death. This needed to be done. They needed to capture or kill him and I’m glad they have.”
People with family and friends in the military spoke of anxiety about retaliation against soldiers.
“I’m worried,” said Cathyrn Romero, of Bradenton, Fla.
When the news reached her, it had been six days since she heard from her husband, Joseph, who’s serving with the Army in Afghanistan. She wondered whether he’d been called away from his base. “I heard all the bases there are on red alert,” she said.
In the New York area, many remembered friends and family who’d died in the attacks. Gerald Farrington, a New Yorker, was a 23-year-old mail clerk working on the 97th floor of Two World Trade Center in 2001. He wasn’t on the clock when the towers fell, but a lot of his friends were. “So for me,” he said, “it means, “OK, that chapter is done.”
Others spoke more generally. At a bar on Jericho Turnpike in Huntington Station, N.Y., Mike Bieber, the owner, said, “It should be a national holiday.” Sitting at the bar was a lance corporal in the Marine Reserves who, like many others, expressed a qualified joy, though in his case the joy was qualified by something other than sadness or worry. “I wish it were me that got him,” he said.
Across the country, in the Santa Cruz Mountains in California, Alice Hoglan said she did indeed feel “a little bit of closure.” Her son was Mark Bingham, one of the passengers who fought their way into the cockpit of Flight 93 before it crashed into a field in Pennsylvania.
“It’s been electric around here,” she said.
She added, “I’m trying to temper the news with the sobering thought that there might be some kind of ugly backlash.”
Up the coast, at a Mexican restaurant in Marin County, Calif., Henry Hautau and his brother Alex had a drink in honor of their friend Paul Sloan, who'd been a football star at San Marin High School and at Brown University, where he graduated in 1997. On Sept. 11, when the planes struck, Sloan was working at a financial firm on the 89th floor of the South Tower.
Henry was booked to fly to New York on Sept. 12; he had business in the city and planned to see Sloan, he said. Recalling the days after the attack, he said, “Everybody was hoping for the best. There were a lot of message boards up and people were looking for other people on the Internet. There was a lot of misinformation, which was tough. We never really found out. There was no information at all.”
His brother, Alex, described his emotions on Sunday night as “bittersweet.” Bin Laden, he said, “probably went out better than he should have. He didn’t get what he deserved. He deserved a lot worse.”
Along with the muted reactions described by many, there were eruptions of joy in cities around the country as crowds gathered to celebrate the news. In Dearborn, Mich., the crowd was the second that had gathered in two days.
Dearborn is home to a large Muslim population, and on Friday, people had swarmed the area in front of City Hall to demonstrate against Terry Jones, the pastor from Florida who triggered deadly riots in Afghanistan when he oversaw the public burning of a Koran, and who’d come to Dearborn for the second time in two weeks to stage a protest against what he described as radical Islam.
On Sunday, residents gathered in front of City Hall again, but for different reasons, of course, and this time the mood was joyous. Revelers waved American flags, and cars honked as they passed. “It felt good,” said Toufeq Ahmed, a Dearborn resident, “because I’m an American and I can trust this country for whatever I need.”