For 9/11 Families, Mixed Feelings on News of Osama Bin Ladens Death

911 families, osama bin laden
Peter Gadiel speaks on behalf of 9/11 families seeking justice at home.

It has not yet been two full days since the world learned that Osama bin Laden, the master-mind behind the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, is dead.

Few dispute it’s a good thing that he’ll no longer be able to provide leadership, money and ideas to terrorist organizations (leaving aside Pittsburgh Steeler’s Rashard Mendenhall‘s bizarre tweets). People shot off fireworks, chanted “USA! USA!”, and lit up Facebook with celebratory comments or the condemnation thereof.

But for families of those who were killed on 9/11, the feelings have been more subdued, mixed, even angry.

Peter Gadiel, whose son James died while at work for Cantor Fitzgerald on the 103rd floor of the World Trade Center, spoke out just hours after President Obama told the country that bin Laden was dead. Gadiel, president of 9/11 Families for a Secure America, said he understood people’s celebratory and patriotic reactions, but that news of bin Laden’s death was a reminder of his son and of bin Laden’s thousands of other victims in the 9/11 attack and other terrorist attacks he is believed to have orchestrated– and of the failures of his nation to protect his son.

He continues [via CNN]:

I know that I speak for other 9/11 family members when I say that we are in a different place from those who experienced terrorism as attacks on their nation rather than as attacks on themselves.

I also know that I am expressing an almost universally held view among the families that our government failed us on 9/11. Although some, probably a very few, are convinced that the Bush administration “knew” in advance of the time, place and method of the 9/11 attacks, they are the tiniest and most irrational minority. The rest of us know that widespread incompetence and corruption among those officials were the cause.

Yet, no federal official has been held to account. Not one from the Clinton administration. Not one of the Bush administration officials who ignored the Gore Commission’s recommendations for improved airline security, nor anyone from the State Department whose officials, in violation of law, regulation and common sense, issued visas for the asking to the 9/11 terrorists.

So, no, I can’t celebrate the death of bin Laden. Too many Americans, who were paid to protect this country but failed to, have skated free of blame.

Salon has two essays from women who lost their husbands in the attacks in Manhattan. Nikki Stern, whose husband worked for Marsh McLennan, also at the World Trade Center, said she has grown accustomed to media calls wanting to know “how she feels” each time bin Laden is in the news or a new terrorist attack is reported, said she’s still not sure how she feels about his death. While she spent the early days following the attack listening to people tell her how she should feel — “They killed your husband! You of all people should understand why we have to do whatever it takes to get these bastards,” her boss said right in Stern’s face.

Now he’s gone, is it how people promised she would feel? Stern’s still not sure. She’s not joyful, she writes. There’s relief and there’s not relief. Satisfaction in that justice has been served? Here’s what she writes at Salon:

Perhaps, in a general sort of way, although bin Laden was to me as my husband would have been to him: a symbol; nothing more, nothing less.

But mostly, she’s seeing it as she sees all days that she’s asked to return in her mind to those events.

Of course this news has changed my day. Today is, like so many days over the past decade, all about that event. I’ve been reminded once more of how permanent this 9/11 identity is; how likely it is I will always be asked to return to my feelings about the attack in order to measure both my progress, and, I think, our progress. And how do I feel about that? It is what it is. I’m dealing with it, thank you very much.

Marian Fontana’s husband, Dave, was one of the many firefighters who died trying to save others in the Twin Towers. Her son, Aidan, was 5 at the time. Fontana writes that she tried to shield her son from the images and much of the information surrounding her husband’s death from her son. He saw pictures of the burning towers for the first time this year.

She quietly told him Monday morning at breakfast that bin Laden was dead and answered his questions. He said that he felt like a big weight was off his shoulders, then headed out for school.

Dropping him off, she writes that she cried. From Salon:

… not out of relief for bin Laden’s death but sadness that Aidan had to carry any weight at all, that a whole generation of children like him have had to grow up in a world of fear, hate and intolerance.

Can you relate to how these families are feeling? How are you feeling the day after the day after?


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