Closure, Finally? 9/11 Firefighter and Victims' Sister Reflect on Bin Laden's Death

05/05/2011 05:53 pm ET | Updated Jul 05, 2011

334: men the New York City Fire Department lost to 9/11.

ONE: sisters my friend Kirsten lost to 9/11.

Clearly, one loss of life is more than enough for anyone to handle. How could someone do this to your friend or family member? And what kind of person would follow through with such an attack in the first place? For nearly 10 years now, survivors have been grappling with these questions, as well as with lingering feelings of anger, fear, and deep sorrow. As for the mastermind himself, people had almost stopped wondering what had happened to him. Until now.

With so many years of grief between Sept. 11, 2001 and the present, has bin Laden's death brought any closure to those most directly effected by the disaster, to people like the firefighters and civilians who lost their friends and loved ones?

One NYFD firefighter named Steve, a native New Yorker who had been part of the crew deployed from Brooklyn's Shea Stadium, lost more than a couple of good buddies to the disaster: "Whoever was part of the fire department, somewhere along the line you were touched -- either someone you went out drinking with, or you were in probationary firefighter school with, or you actually worked with them out in the field ..." 343, he emphasized, is a lot of guys.

And what about those guys' families? Steve knows they're still recovering -- and fears they'll never quite recover. Some firefighters had young families, and "maybe their kids won't even know who their father was." To make matters worse, this firefighter knows that memories of the disaster will continue to come up. The attack is "always in the back of your head ... as you move closer to 9/11, [what we lost] just becomes more relevant." Because no matter what happens, the events are "not something that's forgotten." And yet, Steve hopes bin Laden's end may bring the firefighters' friends and families the closure they yearn for.

After almost a decade of what-ifs, closure is what my friend Kirsten Morehouse says she finally feels. Kirsten's sister Lindsay Morehouse, 22, had just taken a new job as an investment banker at Keefe, Bruyette and Woods, located in the World Trade Center. A model agent, Kirsten was on her way to the fashion shows in Bryant Park when she passed 5th avenue and caught a glimpse of the first tower burning. "Surreal," she remembers thinking. After running to her ex-husband's restaurant to try to get in touch with her parents, Kirsten reached her father. He'd received a call from Lindsay saying she was ok and that her tower hadn't been struck. There was just a lot of smoke. That's when the second tower was hit -- right at Lindsay's floor. Sprinting in her heels until her feet bled, Kirsten met her Dad and prayed with him until finally giving up hope.

Still feeling mixed emotions the day after bin Laden's death is announced, Kirsten explains:" It's all new, it's all coming up, but all I know when I first read about it is that I was so relieved. I wasn't happy. I was first relieved. And then I turned on the TV and I was petrified because of the cheering crowds at ground zero." Kirsten fears that public jubilation may fuel potential retaliation, and is also uneasy about feeling actual joy because "there's still death at the end of that. The whole point is that we're mourning people that died in our country, and then we're [celebrating] someone else dying."

While she would have preferred bin Laden be imprisoned rather than killed, a usually pacifistic Morehouse still believes that justice has been served. The horrific events have finally come "full circle" with no more "unfinished business" -- at least when it comes to dealing with the man who ended her sister's life. Kirsten adds: "Him dying is not going to end the threats and the worry and all of that but on a personal level it definitely ends ... you know every day, you mourn the loss, and then you're like, God, how could someone do this to her?" Even if it took them a frustratingly long time to find bin Laden, Kirsten feels she can rest easier now because "at least we got him."

Inevitably, surviving friends and relatives are reacting to the news in their own ways. It's also possible that more than a few people are concluding, like Kirsten, that closing this chapter makes them feel "like our country can do something again."