Chicagoans react to bin Laden death

May 2, 2011 10:40:23 PM PDT
Some people in the Chicago area who lost loved ones in the Sept. 11 attacks shared their thoughts Monday about the death of Osama bin Laden.

Many local families whose loved ones were killed on Sept. 11 say memories of that day are vivid again and emotions are strong.

They feel relief and a little disbelief at bin Laden's death, but above all, they still feel the sadness of the loss of their loved ones.

"She said I'll call you later. That was the last thing, but we never got the call later," said Stella Oledner, the mother of a Sept. 11 attack victim.

Olender says she and her husband John spoke to their daughter Christine every day. The youngest of their three children moved to New York after college with hopes of a career in fashion design.

She eventually took a job in the World Trade Center as the assistant to the general manager at Windows of the World restaurant. She was killed in the terror attacks.

Since Sept. 11, Christine's parents have displayed her high school portrait in the clothing store they've owned in Hanson Park for 40 years.

News that Osama bin Laden was killed has brought the Olenders some relief, as well as concerns for the future.

"We can't predict, I wish we could, but we don't know whether somebody else will continue with his work or what," said Oledner.

Also feeling mixed emotions Monday was George Talhami, whose younger brother Robert worked on the floor just below the Windows restaurant.

"When the phone didn't ring by 5 o'clock that afternoon and the buildings came down, I knew he was gone," said Talhami.

A few days after the attacks, Talhami said, he went to New York to search the streets and hospitals for his brother. His remains were never found, and he left behind a wife and two young sons.

Talhami says bin Laden's death cannot undo the past.

"For the families missing that person or loved one, they will never have any closure. Not the way they died. To always be a part of history this way, it's not a good thing," said Talhami.

Mari-Rae Stopper of Palatine died as Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon. Her mother Marion Kminek says that she decided at that point not to get angry. She is instead focusing on her daughter's accomplishments as a gymnast.

"It's kind of an end of a chapter. It's nice to know that he's been brought to justice," said Kminek.

As for the Olenders, they say they were fortunate in that their daughter Christine's remains were recovered. They buried her at a local cemetery. They, along with George Talhami, say they initially wanted more proof that bin Laden was killed, but they said they are now just processing what happened.

Illinois Senator Dick Durbin said the United States owes a huge debt of gratitude to the intelligence community.

He also said that those who believed in bin Laden and thought they were invincible are waking up to a new reality.

Osama bin Laden's death came as welcome news to area commuters who woke up and read the headlines before going to work.

"It's over," said commuter Joyce Davis. "It would have been great if they had brought him back and not thrown him overboard. It's a good thing he's gone."

"I think it's a great sign that the U.S. can put their mind to something and get something done finally," said commuter Jeff Zientek.

"It's not going to be the end of violence, obviously, 'cause there's a lot of followers and sometimes the person who takes the other one's place is probably worse than the one that was in power originally," said commuter Nancy Peterson.

A government class from Naperville Central High School visited the Sept. 11 memorial in Naperville when they heard the news. Naperville was one of the first cities in America to dedicate a memorial to those who died in the Sept. 11 attacks.

"We talk about how 9/11 changed the culture of America, and they were young when it happened, but this gives them a chance to talk about it," said Naperville Central High School teacher Donna Mohn.

"I just feel like Americans are relieved in the fact that they caught him and that he's dead," said student Mark Pomeroy. "But it's bittersweet because of the casualties that suffered are just like people are going to mourn them. And, like, the people innocently killed will come back against the United States, so it's like a lose-lose."

"It's, like, really hard because this is what we've been fighting for, Osama's death, but not that it's happened, I'm not really sure where we go from here," said student Layne Menter.

Also in Naperville Monday, Laura McDowell, 13, left flowers at the memorial.

"I just thought I should do something nice for all those people because I can't even imagine what it was like," she said.

Army reservist Nick Santoyo served in Afghanistan from 2008 to 2009. Just last week, he lost a fellow soldier. On Monday, he was both comforted and encouraged.

"I was happy when it was done, but then once I see news about that and know that it was guys that I was actually with, it just kinda hits you a little harder and makes you feel like you could have done something more," said Santoyo.

Santoyo said that despite bin Laden's death, he does not think the soldiers will be coming home earlier than planned, because capturing bin laden was not their only mission.

He also said he wants to go back to Afghanistan as soon as he can.

More families in the Chicago area who lost loved ones in the World Trade Center attack reacted Monday to the news of the death of bin Laden.

Mary Lenz Wieman was on the 105th floor on Sept. 11. Her father, Lionel Lenz, who lives in Rolling Meadows, said hearing the news that Osama bin Laden was killed is bittersweet.

"It won't bring our daughter back, but I am certainly happy that this ordeal is over," he said.

The death of Osama bin Laden offered some comfort to relatives of Sept. 11 victims. Pat Shanower lost her son during the attack on the Pentagon and told the Chicago Tribune that it doesn't bring closure.

Barb Pemberton lost her sister at the World Trade Center attack. She said: "I'm not the sort of person who believes in an eye for an eye, but he is not the kind of person who should continue living after what he did to all those people."

Illinois Senator Mark Kirk praised the U.S. military and allies for bringing bin Laden to justice.

"This is going to be a big boost for the Afghan and Pakistani governments, as well as the men and women of the U.S. military and intelligence services," Kirk said.

Durbin says though this is not the end of the threat of terrorism, it is a clear warning to our enemies that when they threaten and kill Americans, they will be pursued and held accountable.

"He is dead, and that is a long overdue victory for justice," said U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert.

"I don't think anyone can help but not think about those that we lost in 9/11," said U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley. "It's just as long overdue, but much needed and you also have to think of the families who lost in New York, Pennsylvania and the Pentagon."

Quigley would not speculate on the effects bin Laden's death would have on al-Qaida, but he noted that the terror group is now far more splintered and spread out throughout the world.