Local Residents 'Jubilant' Over Bin Laden's Death
Megan Leech and her husband, Army Sgt. 1st Class Gregory Leech, were in a Washington, D.C.,-area hotel room Sunday evening preparing for bed when a friend's text message alerted them to turn on the television.
Minutes later, after hearing the news that U.S. troops had killed Osama bin Laden, they headed to the White House and joined a gathering crowd.
"It was chaos," she said. "Really loud like a rock concert."
They were among many local residents who shared reactions to the death of the al-Qaida leader who masterminded the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Leech described the moment as friendly - no pushing or shoving. Many people, she said, wore red, white and blue, chanted "U-S-A, U-S-A" and sang songs.
The couple stayed for two hours.
"By the time we left, the crowd was backed up a couple of blocks past the White House," she said. "It was pretty crazy and pretty cool."
Her husband, an eight-year military veteran who served two tours in Afghanistan and two more in Iraq, said there was a general feeling of relief at the news of bin Laden's death.
"I think, in general, there is a sense of relief that we can finally put this one to bed," he said. "It definitely was a loose end. I'm grateful we did get him.
"Never should the loss of life be celebrated, but I don't think it was ever more deserved than in the case of this man."
He described the gathering in front of the White House as strange, saying the spirit of the event felt misplaced because people got caught up in the moment.
"Everybody was celebrating, but nobody seemed to know what they were celebrating," he said.
Leech said he plans to return to active duty as soon as he can after surgery on a broken hand. When asked if he thought things would be different now that bin Laden is dead, he said he didn't think much would change.
"Bin Laden was a man," he said. "He was very polarizing. You either loved him or hated him, but at the end of the day, this is something bigger than that one man."
While many Americans and others around the world celebrated the death of bin Laden, Foxfire resident Deborah Borza reacted quite differently
Her daughter, Deora Bodley, 20, was the youngest female passenger on United Flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania after it was hijacked by terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001.
"I felt nothing," Borza said of her reaction when she heard the news U.S. troops had killed the terrorist leader. "Nothing was there. What I can't grasp is what it is to be jubilant over this. I don't think I could have the same jubilation that others have."
Frank Guerra, Bodley's grandfather, spoke with emotion in his voice when he said, "There will never be closure with my granddaughter having been on that plane."
Throughout the day Monday, many local residents did celebrate bin Laden's death.
Jennifer Garner, of Southern Pines, had two American flags on her van.
"I wanted to call everybody I know," she said. "It's been a long time waiting. I think it is a small piece of the puzzle. There is still obviously a lot of terrorists still out there."
Pinehurst resident Lisa Wahl said she was extremely happy when she heard the news.
"We can move forward now," she said. "Maybe we can bring some of our guys back home, and our ladies too."
Wahl said her husband retired from the Army with more than 20 years of service. She said his reaction differed from hers.
"He is just military 100 percent," she said. "For him, this is just an operation that got done, completed. Now they move on. For him it was just a job."
Another woman, who didn't want to give her name, said her husband was deployed in the Middle East. She called the news "nerve racking."
Joe Gibbons, of Pinehurst, a retired firefighter from New York, said he knew eight people who died in the World Trade Center towers in the terrorist attacks. He called the news of bin Laden's death "bittersweet."
He said Monday morning that he tied an American flag to his car as a tribute to those who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks.
"When I stopped, people beeped their horns and gave me a thumbs up," Gibbons said.
Borza said she hoped that the news of bin Laden's death would be an impactful moment in people's lives that would allow them to make a positive difference in their community and their world when they return to their everyday lives.
"I'm looking at this killing of bin Laden as, 'let's have it be a shift,'" she said. "The jubilation is going to wane. After that jubilation is over, will people notice what they go back to and what they are interested in, what they really want to do to have an impact on the world?"
Congressman Howard Coble said the manhunt for Bin Laden had "finally ended satisfactorily."
"He got what was coming to him," Coble said after hearing the news of bin Laden's death.
Coble said he hoped the news would allow those who lost loved ones in that "dismally sad day" would find closure. He also praised the military and intelligence communities for their role and Presidents Obama and Bush.
"We need to commend the intelligence community, the men and women of our armed forces who made it happen, along with President Obama and his team for having made the decisive decision to strike while the iron was hot. We must also commend President Bush for articulating the goal of removing Osama bin Laden."
Moore County Republican Party Chairman Bob Levy also praised the president and the U.S. miliary.
"Moore County Republicans join our president in cheering our victory over terrorism," Levy said. "But our greatest admiration goes to our Joint Special Operations Command from Fort Bragg and Pope Air Base. The killing of Osama bin Laden was a military victory, not a political one. Congratulations need to go where our brave soldiers went. JSOC is truly an organization of heroes.
"Here in Moore County, we know that praise needs to be reserved for those special forces who answered our country's call and risked their lives for our freedom. Both Republicans and Democrats must jointly cheer the success of our military and our president. But our greatest love and respect goes to those soldiers who are our Moore County neighbors, friends and heroes."
Contact Tom Embrey at email@example.com.
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