Your Voices | The Death of Bin Laden

People Flock to Ground ZeroClaire Glass Scores of people flocked to the World Trade Center site today in the hours after the announcement that Osama bin Laden had been killed.

From Ground Zero to Tompkins Square Park, a sampling of local reactions to the death of Osama bin Laden.

At Ground Zero

“Part of the wound has been healed but I’ll be living with this until the day I die. The images of New Yorkers leaping from buildings don’t go away. Today, I don’t have grief. I’m glad this day finally came.”
Lenny Crisci, 63, a retired police officer, whose younger brother, Lieutenant John Crisci, was killed on 9/11.

Francine Morin, 31Claire Glass Francine Morin at the World Trade Center site this morning.

“We all felt it, smelled it, tasted it, ingested it. The stress, the constant bomb threats that followed and that metallic, rotten stench — all because of this guy and what he did. This man had a direct effect of my life. My personal terrorist is dead.”
Francine Morin, 41, who worked two blocks away from the World Trade Center and was treated for post-traumatic stress after 9/11.

“Finally. In some small way I hope this relieves some of the families’ pain to know that this justice has been served.”
Donna Strout, a Connecticut resident who volunteered at the World Trade Center site after the attack.

Remembering 9/11

“There was first a loud bang. It sounded like a huge piece of sheet metal falling off a truck. That’s what initially brought me awake. Then my neighbor who worked as a paramedic knocked to say she was being sent downtown: the towers had fallen. It was as if she were saying goodbye.

“Out in the hall, another neighbor stood on the landing. She looked very grave. ‘Check your phone,’ she said. ‘The phones don’t work.’ Neither did the radio. So I went to 2nd and 2nd. It was there that we in these parts usually had the best view of the twin World Trade towers. But they were gone. Nothing was left. Just a plume. There was nothing else to do but sit and watch the world from our windows, since the police and military had cordoned off the East Village. Finally communications were restored, only to bring us the searing images and wild speculations of what took place and who was responsible. Daily we passed memorials set with candles in dozens of doorways. Candles lined the walks outside the firehouses and fountains in the parks. Many of us knew people who never made it out of there. A lot of us lit candles.

Firefighters memorialClaire Glass A memorial at the World Trade Center site.

After they lifted the cordon I walked downtown to see for myself. I thought it would bring me closure. It didn’t. It couldn’t. And the aftermath became a fact of life: the horror, the acrid air and sticky gray dust that lay everywhere. Then came the following spring, when upon the warming breeze came the stench from under the rubble.

Finally, we witnessed the video of Bin Laden boasting, yes, that it was him. How his words rang in our ears to mingle with dark memories. All of us who were here on 9/11 have an eye-witness account that in time we ceased to tell. Through the years we gave up on closure. And now, quite suddenly, he is gone.

All things considered, perhaps we in these parts can be excused from the general celebration. Because, odd as it may seem, it’s most often the case that the witness of a horrible crime remains unmoved by vengeance or justice. This is surely not by dint of kindness. No, it’s rather like when they finally identified the remains of Hitler after his horrific finale. What was there to celebrate? The world was only left to ponder: what a piece of work is man.”
Tim Milk, East Village historian and community contributor to The Local.

“I was living on East 22nd Street. I remember my family in Canada, when they finally reached me by phone, asked if I was ‘far enough way’ from the affected area. It seemed a strange question. My family and I were not close enough by any means to be in danger. But we were close enough for the smell to invade our home. I don’t know how to get far enough away from that day even ten years after. I can’t gloat over Osama’s end, even though it was doubtless appropriate. But it does nothing to heal the memories.”
Kim Davis, associate editor of The Local.

Learning of Bin Laden’s Death

Sept. 12, 2001Fred Benenson Sept. 12, 2001.

“The 9/11 attacks were a strange way to begin my second week of NYU undergrad. I knew New York wasn’t supposed to feel like this — the Humvees, that awful smell, the empty streets, and the police checkpoints washed me into a world that most of my high school friends would only witness on TV.

But then again, I had only lived in New York for a week. I knew I wanted to love this city, and I knew that these events would strengthen my love for it, but I was still on the outside. Taking these photos was part of my attempt at saying — I’m here, I’m watching, I’m a New Yorker — let me try to document some of whats going on.

I fought with my parents about whether I should come home. They were concerned that New York was too dangerous, and maybe they were right. But I wanted to stay in New York and ride it through.

The I New York shirt caught my eye in a closed store. The shirt must have been made before the attacks, but its irony took on a striking edge the day after.

My photos were mostly out of focus and poorly composed, but I’m glad I took them. To be honest, I wasn’t really expecting the kind of closure that I felt last night after hearing Bin Laden had been killed. But it was real and emotional, and felt like a time to move on.”
Fred Benenson, community contributor to The Local.

Gary Gerst and Todd PitmanCourtesy of Gary Gerst Gary Gerst (left) and Todd Pitman.

“It just was a relief to know that the person who’s responsible for that has been brought to justice.”
Gary Gerst, friend of East Village resident Todd Pitman, a trader at Cantor Fitzgerald, who was killed on 9/11.

“Leaving the Regal movie theater in Union Square and blocks until I was near a television, I watched it unfold on Twitter — in bursts of confusion, jubilation, reflection. I experienced it through my coworkers in media, my classmates from college, strangers from across the globe. I received messages to head down to the site and others of concern (did I notice more police cars on the street?), I felt like screaming at those passing by — you must know what is happening. I joined the Twitterverse. I tweeted and retweeted. I read profound observations out loud. It was completely different from the way I endured the terrorist attacks 10 years ago — huddled around a radio, hands entwined with friends. But, in many ways, walking the five blocks to the subway, I felt even less alone and it was just as powerful.”
Rachel Trobman, community contributor to The Local.

“It’s complicated. I remember feeling like, God it’s over but it’s not over, it’s like the closing of a chapter.”
Marion Siegel, East Village resident who filmed the fire at the towers on 9/11 from her rooftop.

“One reaction I had last night was an overwhelming sense of guilt. I didn’t live in New York when the towers fell, I lived in California. I continued my life, never knew anyone personally who went to Iraq, and then I moved to New York after a decade had passed and enjoyed the city without ever knowing what it had been like with 3,000 more people on the island, or two more huge towers. I often go by Ground Zero and I feel something, but I never know what to feel. Last night when I heard the news I was clearly happy, but I feel so strange making a comment as a New Yorker when this whole thing makes me feel like anything but a New Yorker.”
Sarah Shanfield, community contributor to The Local.

IMG_0117Claire Glass A passerby pauses at a memorial to first responders at the World Trade Center site.

NYU Journalism’s Crystal Bell, Kenan Christiansen and Grace Maalouf contributed information to this post.