New Yorkers React to bin Laden's Death

Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country, we bring you the unmissable quotes from the morning's political conversations on WNYC. Today on the Brian Lehrer Show, we opened the phones for 9-11 family members, first responders, Muslim-Americans and others to react to the news of Osama bin Laden's death. WNYC reporters Bob Hennelly and Arun Venugopal discussed how New Yorkers are reacting as we take calls.

Late Sunday night, President Obama announced the death of Osama bin Laden. During an operation executed by the U.S. military, the president said the terrorist was shot and then buried in the ocean. The death of the al Qaeda leader has stirred up sentiment around the world, but particularly here in New York where bin Laden's attack on the U.S. was most deadly.

Is it appropriate to celebrate?

Karen called in to the Brian Lehrer Show from Westchester. She said her husband worked in the twin towers during the attack on 9/11 and was badly injured, but she still doesn't feel like celebrating with the news of bin Laden's death.

He and I both were thinking last night, well there is obviously some sense of relief that Osama bin Laden is not out there to kill other people but at the same token, the dancing in the streets type of thing and the celebration of joy takes me back to 9/11 when we saw people in other countries dancing in the streets with joy that there were people killed in 9/11 here. And it takes me back to the message in Exodus which is God saying to the angels...after Pharoah and them were killed in the Red Sea, why are you singing? You know, it's a mixed feeling, but I think this dancing with the joy while we should have relief is difficult.

Jordan in Manhattan said his cousin also worked in the buildings during 9/11 and was killed by the attacks. He disagreed with Karen and said the celebration is exactly what we need.

I think this is totally an occasion worth celebrating. [Bin Laden] was a horrible evil person and there is no reason that human beings, maybe not angels, but human beings cannot rejoice at the death of such an enemy. I hope that all such enemies of the U.S. and freedom and life suffer similar fates...I think that as much as we can in this world address such evil, that would be great and if it means that those people die, well that's just the way it has to be.

Jordan went on to say, it's not about revenge.

It's really less about vengeance than just making sure that if someone's out to kill you, well then by all means, kill them first. And Osama bin Laden killed thousands of people and his ideology, which has spread unfortunately since September 11th, is really what's problematic and is what must be fought.

Closure for families who lost loved ones?

Colleen Kelly is a co-founder of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, an organization started by family members of those killed on 9/11.

That word closure is a funny thing. I don't know if there's ever any closure. My brother Bill is never coming back to this world and there's still a lot of work to be done. We're still involved in two and a half wars and there's many things happening as a direct result of September 11th that still need to be addressed in our country certainly, and around the world.

She went on to say, people will still feel how they feel about the death of bin Laden.

I don't think feelings are right or wrong. I felt enormous relief, just tremendous tremendous relief. That was the overwhelming feeling for me.

Brad in New London served in the air force and has a friend who recently died in Afghanistan. He found the news of bin Laden's death to be "cathartic" and said many veterans will likely feel the same way.

There's something about a sense of completeness to it and it somehow seems fitting. I totally respect the worries about the celebratory nature, it seems weird to celebrate a man's death, but I think the objective reason behind the celebration matters. The woman who was speaking earlier about the people who celebrated in other countries on 9/11 that was really disgusting to many of us, what made it disgusting was they were celebrating innocent peoples deaths and this was not an innocent man's death. This man was liable for the crimes he committed, so I think it's fine to celebrate justice when it occurs.

But, he said, it doesn't bring back his friend who was killed in Afghanistan last week.

A "reset" for President Obama

Elizabeth called from Columbia, MO, where she moved from New York after 9/11. She's been sick as a result of 9/11 and said she's had trouble getting health care. She feels like the government and the press has let her down.

I'm calling to say that not only bin Laden, but the U.S. government really ruined my life and a lot of other people's lives. A lot of us died months and years after 9/11 because of the air quality down there and a lot of us are sick, very sick...bankrupt, we lost our jobs, we lost our careers. I want our government to take care of its people. Bin Laden's death doesn't really change that. I want our government to take care of its people and quit blaming everybody else for a lot of the problems that are going on in this country...

WNYC's Bob Hennelly said the this could be a chance for the President to reset and re-prioritize.

If you just add in the costs of how our days change to get into buildings, the millions of hours that are spent by individuals who leave their desk to go bring people in on the first floor if you're in a sky scraper. The question is, we saw a little bit of a change under Sec. Nepolitano when the ridiculous color coded system was reconsidered, but it does seem to take an awfully long time in the 21st century for the U.S. government to learn a new trick.

Relief among Muslim New Yorkers

Ahmed in Woodside said his family had mixed feelings about the death of bin Laden.

My wife and I and my son had a discussion. My son was very happy and he said, 'oh wow, this is very good relief.' I hope there will be no more discussion about this because it's hurting us and my wife was mixed feeling because it was celebration...and I want to say, we had a lot of discussion and this is going to open dialogue and open eyes within the Muslim community.

WNYC's Arun Venugopal said feelings among Muslims and Muslim Americans have been mixed, but overall there is a feeling of relief.

Muslims and Muslim American groups I've been paying attention to in the last few hours, you see generally a sense of relief is definitely a common word I'm hearing a lot, people who feel like that problem is kind of off our shoulders now. It's also providing a platform for dialog.

Ahmed called in from Edison and echoed Venugopal's comments.

This is a big relief for Pakistan and Pakistani peoples and Islam and also, I'm strongly condemning the people; they are not a Muslim if they are killing innocent people. Islam is not allowed to kill innocent people.