While Osama bin Laden’s death at the hands of U.S. forces has stoked wild celebrations throughout the nation, the response from many family members of victims killed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks has been more muted.
Jim Giaccone of Bayville, N.Y., whose brother Joseph worked in the World Trade Center's North Tower, said he initially felt “a sigh of relief” when he heard news late Sunday that U.S. forces had killed bin Laden.
“Then I saw the celebrations in Times Square and in front of the White House and I felt guilty, because I did not feel that euphoria that it seemed like a good portion of the world was feeling,” he said.
“Don’t get me wrong. I think Osama bin Laden was evil personified.
“But having said that, my brother is still dead.”
Lisa Paterson of Ridgewood, N.J., whose husband was killed while working on the 105th floor of the North Tower, said she experienced “emotional relief” to learn of bin Laden’s death, though she stopped short of a full-scale celebration.
“I’m relieved that this man who is so evil can’t do this [again], but I’m also worried about who else trains with him, who else believes in him, and I don’t want any retribution, I don’t want us to be so provocative that someone else says, ‘Let’s get [more Americans].’”
“I’m definitely cheering too, in all honestly — but ‘celebrate’ is such a weird word for this.”
Mrs. Paterson said she wants to meet and personally thank the military personnel who tracked down and killed bin Laden. She also had special praise for President Obama.
“I thought the president was wonderful when he spoke” Sunday night, she said. “I thought he spoke to the families, which is very important.”
“He’s a rock star in my eyes now.”
Mrs. Paterson said she worries that bin Laden’s death will reopen old psychological wounds with her 14-year-old twins - a girl and a boy who suffers from brain damage.
“I’m worried about all the 9/11 kids in general,” she said. “While the world might be cheering, I have to really answer tough questions, and I have to go through it with them” all over again.
She added that she would have preferred that bin Laden was captured alive and forced to face the families of the victims.
“I’ve always had this kind of weird fantasy to meet him and talk to him and for him to see face to face what he did to my family,” she said.
“He was always like this cartoon character for me. Who is he? Who were the hijackers on the plane? Well, they died so you never really could get a sense of them in the courtroom or see them face to face and yell and them. So your rage and your anger, it’s so private.”
But Mr. Giaccone said he was thankful bin Laden was killed, thus denying him the platform to expose his hateful views.
“One of my first thoughts was that I was glad he was dead, and that the circus that would’ve followed is not going to take place,” he said.
Paul Arpaia, whose cousin, Kathy Mazza, a captain with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police, was killed after responding to the World Trade Center, also said he doesn’t feel like celebrating.
“It was a hollow victory,” he said. “It doesn’t bring back family members, it doesn’t change what happened since then, and I’m not even sure it will bring an end to the violence.
“I don’t see it as any reason to rejoice or to celebrate, although I understand that people do and I respect them, but it’s not for me.”
Mr. Arpaia, who teaches at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, said he worries that killing bin Laden could lead to more violence, as his followers could seek retribution.
“It will probably just lead to more violence and more people dying,” he said. “It’s really a Catch 22.”
Melissa Pullis, whose husband, Edward, worked at the World Trade Center, said she is angry that bin Laden’s body was disposed of at sea, a move she said denies the victim’s families an opportunity to see him dead.
“They said they did a burial at sea because of his religion, but who cares about his religion?” Mrs. Pullis said. “What about everybody else? He killed so many people. I believe we deserve to see his death picture.”
And without a body, Mrs. Pullis said she has doubts that bin Laden is dead.
“This doesn’t give me any closure,” she said. “I want proof.”
“Is he even dead? Is this just Obama trying to score points? Why do this so underhanded?”
Peter Gadiel, whose son James worked on the 103rd floor of a World Trade Center, agreed that bin Laden’s death doesn’t give him closure.
“I hate that word,” he said. “My son is dead, he’s never coming back. It’s not closure.”
Mr. Gadiel said he appreciated the impromptu expressions of joy from the streets of New York or from outside the White House that filled television screens but said he was also troubled by “the circus atmosphere surrounding this.”
As president of 9/11 Families for a Secure America, a group of victims’ relatives who are pushing for tighter homeland protection, Mr. Gadiel said bin Laden’s ability to lead a terrorist organization that did so much damage over so many years should be a wake-up call.
“I’m pleased that he’s dead, but I really feel the fact that he survived so long is due to the incompetence of our government,” he said. “And I’m not talking about the last 10 years, I’m talking about the Clinton administration when [President Bill] Clinton failed to go after him.”
Stephen Dinan contributed to this report.
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Sean Lengell covers Congress and national politics and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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