WASHINGTON -- Osama bin Laden shattered the lives of untold thousands, and while the survivors and relatives of the victims killed in the terrorist attacks he launched are cheering that U.S. forces "finally got the bastard," news of the al Qaeda founder's death is doing little to help their lives.
"My life doesn’t change," said Jennifer McNamara, whose firefighter husband John is among the many responders who have died in the years since serving at the World Trade Center. "I have a day of relief maybe, a day of happiness. But ultimately I’m still a widow with a 4-year-old to raise."
"Obviously I was happy to hear, but on the same level it doesn't really change anything for me personally,” said Raina Wallens, who lost her husband, Matthew Blake Wallens, in One World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. “It doesn't bring Blake back or anything like that ... For other people I know who have lost people, it doesn't alter anything."
And bin Laden is not just responsible for 9/11, and the thousands killed that day in Pennsylvania, New York and at the Pentagon. Many others have died in attacks around the globe from his plots, including other Americans the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa, and the 2000 attack on the USS Cole that killed 17 sailors at port in Yemen.
For the survivors of those strikes, there is also satisfaction, but little else.
"I was at first absolutely thrilled to hear the news,” said Kirk Lippold, the former Cole commander and current Nevada congressional candidate. "That was then immediately tempered by the fact that I knew, even with bin Laden dead, there were going to be 17 families that still weren’t going to have their sailors back home tonight.”
"The reality of it is it doesn’t bring back those sailors any more than it brings back the thousands of victims that he has killed over the years as a result of his terrorist attacks and ideology,” Lippold pointed out.
In fact, for some victims, the fresh killing brought back some of the pain they’ve tried to bury with a renewed sense of fear that America could be attacked again in retaliation. Some were also uncomfortable with the wild celebrations of bin Laden’s death.
"I think about Blake all the time, and this kind of event is not like a rallying point," Wallens said.
Still, May 1 is a date bin Laden’s victims will mark.
"When I first saw it, I didn’t believe it. I had to keep changing channels," said John Feal, who runs the 9/11 advocacy group the FealGood Foundation. "Then I sat down and I cried. I just cried."
"While I’m elated he’s dead, I’m not doing a song and dance on anybody’s grave," Feal added. “It’s not going to bring anybody back.”
But there is a grim sense of justice -- and satisfaction -- for Feal and others that bin Laden was not killed in an anonymous bombing -- and that he was taken out by a U.S. serviceman.
"The hope in my heart is that his last vision was of an American soldier coming at him," said McNamara, the firefighter's widow. "That gives me a certain sense of pride and of justice."
"That’s all you’re every going to get. You’re not going to get closure really -- nothing is ever going to make you feel better, not for me, not for any of the 9/11 families,” she added.
But there is at least a measure of peace.
"Al Qaeda is never going to go away, we know that," said McNamara. "But to have their head cut off and to have done in such a personal way... that’s a good feeling.”
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