NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – It was news New Yorkers had been waiting almost 10 long years for: Osama bin Laden is dead.
The terrorist leader was shot dead by U.S. Navy SEALs at his compound in Pakistan, where officials said he was hiding in a million-dollar Abbotabad mansion.
Jubilant New Yorkers spontaneously took to the streets at Ground Zero and Times Square Sunday night, waving American flags and chanting “U-S-A! U-S-A.!” It was an unusual moment for the otherwise solemn Ground Zero site: in moments, it became the site of celebration as people began singing the national anthem.
Cliff Lichter, who works in Jersey City, can’t look at the skyline of Lower Manhattan without thinking back to September 11, 2001.
“I saw that they were flying and I saw the second plane crash and it was unbelievable. Still think about it all the time,” he told CBS 2′s Kristin Thorne.
Lichter, however, has found a certain sense of peace about the the tragedy with the death of bin Laden.
“It shows that the United States finally got the job done,” Lichter said.
However, New Yorkers instinctively knew that one man’s death did not suddenly make the world a safe place.
“It’s more than just Osama, it’s a whole group of people that we have to be afraid of,” Vanessa Gil of Long Island told CBS 2′ Don Dahler.
“I think it’s going to get worse. I don’t think that just because you killed him that it’s taking away the problem,” Dana Laven said.
In Brooklyn Heights, people also remembered that fateful day when the view from their windows changed forever.
“I just think something’s missing. It’s sort of the…something you’ve always lived with and all of a sudden, it was gone that day,” one resident said.
Hundreds gathered at Ground Zero following the news. Megan Horan was 13 on September 11, 2001, and had just started high school a few blocks away from Ground Zero.
“It just makes me remember the day, that’s all. When I walk down here normally, I don’t feel any strong emotions,” Horan said, sobbing.
“It’s good for the world. We took the head off the snake, so to speak,” James Vigliatora said. “It’s a beautiful day to be an American.”
“I remember being 17 and saying, ‘I’ll never forget’ and I’ve never forgotten,” one woman said. “The face of my world changed. I was so relieved. There’s so many people who have been working night and day to find one person and they found him. It’s a positive sign and we’re making progress.”
Sean Sheehan, who comes from a family of firefighters and lost his cousin on 9/11, came to Ground Zero from Rockville Centre the moment he heard the news of bin Laden’s death.
“Before, we were all together for despair and tragedy, now we’re together in unison over a joyful time where someone who caused this pain got what he deserved,” Sheehan said.
“I’m elated. It’s a great victory for the United States and for the civilized world,” Debra Burlingame, co-founder of Families For A Safe and Strong America, told WCBS 880 reporter Peter Haskell.
Burlingame, who lost her pilot brother, Charles, when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon, said the terror threat does not disappear with bin Laden’s death.
“This is the close of a very big chapter,” Burlingame said. “It doesn’t end it but it’s a great relief.”
Families of the victims of 9/11 have felt a jumble of emotions following the death of bin Laden.
“I just never thought that this kind of closure was in the cards for me. I never thought that we would get justice,” Stacy Pelosi, whose father died at the World Trade Center, said.
Ann Ielpi lost her 29-year-old son, Jonathan, a New York City firefighter who died responding to the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
She said bin Laden is “burning in hell right now.”
Katherine Wolf, a classical pianist, died in the Sept. 11 attacks at the World Trade Center just weeks after starting a job with Marsh & McLennan. Her husband, Charles, said he never lost hope that bin Laden would be found.
“We beat them at their own game. We didn’t give up. 10 years,” Wolf said. “This man’s evil energy has been taken off of our planet and God is going to throw his soul into the depths of hell.”
For John Cartier, who lost his brother James in the Twin Towers, bin Laden’s death is bittersweet.
“It’s an emotional roller coaster,” Cartier said. “Him being dead saves other people but it doesn’t bring my brother back. Closure is not the right word for us. Justice is a politician’s word. So this is all about revenge, revenge for the man who murdered my brother.”
Many tears have been shed at Ground Zero over the past decade but Monday morning the site was filled with tears of joy.
“I saw a lot of people really happy that a murderer is dead; someone who took too many lives and lasted too long to get taken care of. He’s gone now,” one man said. “I am so proud of our men and women in uniform.”
“On Sept. 11 this country changed forever and being here this morning gives me hope and belief that we will be that same country we were before Sept. 11,” Bryan Mannix, of Rockville Centre, said.
One person climbed a street sign on Church and Vesey street, waving an American flag.
A similar scene played out in Times Square, with some celebrating bin Laden’s death by carrying posters.
“It’s really a terrific day for not just America but for the world. To have this cancer pulled from us is the right thing,” said Guy Madsen, 49, who drove to the city from Clifton, N.J., when he heard of bin Laden’s death. “This is judgment day, and we’re winning.”
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