At ground zero, an outpouring of emotion as New Yorkers feel 'closure'

Crowds gathered spontaneously at ground zero in New York as news of Osama bin Laden's death spread. 'Today is a day of jubilation,' said one person near the site of the 9/11 attack.

Jason DeCrow/AP
A large, jubilant crowd reacts to the news of Osama Bin Laden's death at the corner of Church and Vesey Streets, adjacent to ground zero, during the early morning hours of Monday in New York.

The morning after the news that Osama bin Laden had been killed in Pakistan, lawyer Aaron Lebenger felt compelled to walk to ground zero for a few quiet moments to honor the 2,752 people who lost their lives on the attack on the World Trade Center’s twin towers.

“I just wanted to be here,” he says.

A block away from what is now a massive construction site, Gregory Hajduk sat in his red Dodge Durango with the names of all the emergency medical personnel who were killed on 9/11 draped on a cloth across the hood of the vehicle.

“I had to come down,” said Mr. Hajduk, who works as a paramedic. “I lost a lot of good friends.”

And, as she walked past the site of the former towers, banker Cheryl Stinerock said she is “relieved” upon hearing about the death of bin Laden, the mastermind of the attacks that killed 3,000 people, mostly in New York but also in Washington and Pennsylvania.

Outside the scene of the attack in New York, New Yorkers mostly happily greeted the news that Mr. bin Laden had finally been brought to brutal justice.

“Today is a day of jubilation,” says James Vigliatura, as he stood on a street corner holding an American flag in one hand and a copy of a tabloid newspaper with the headline, “We Got Him,” in the other hand. “I’m so proud of our military and the Navy SEALs.”

Not far from Mr. Vigliatura was a large contingent of police trying to keep the tourists and the massive crowds moving. A SWAT team cradled automatic weapons. A police helicopter hovered over the area. There was also a larger police presence at key areas such as Grand Central station and Times Square.

Nearby, TV crews set up in special pens erected by the New York Police Department. A double line of TV transmission trucks, their antennae pointed toward the sky, were parked around the site.

Crowds gathered outside ground zero almost immediately after President Obama announced bin Laden’s death.

“I had friends who came over here to celebrate,” says Asaf Barlev as he walked past ground zero. “I hope this brings a feeling of closure. It feels good to smile.”

New York mayor Michael Bloomberg said he, too, hopes it brings some closure and comfort to those who lost loved ones on 9/11. “New Yorkers have waited nearly 10 years for this news,” he said in a statement.

Outside of New York, the news was greeted with enthusiasm as well. On Sunday night, outside the White House, large crowds gathered to celebrate the news. One of those attracted to the White House was Harlan Trevithick, who works at a Washington law firm.

She recalls hearing the noise of people in the streets as they converged on the White House. She and her roommate joined the jogging crowd.

“People were honking horns, chanting, “USA, USA” and yelling, “We Got Him,” she recalls. Once she got to the White House, she says there were flags and signs that said, “Never Forget.” Even more importantly, she says there was the feeling camaraderie and closure. “You just felt this was people appreciating the moment,” she says.

In Philadelphia, the New York Mets were locked in an extra-innings game against the Phillies when the news broke. The crowd started chanting, “USA, USA.”

On social-networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, Americans expressed their joy, their skepticism, their concerns. The most retweeted message: “A prince gets married, a bad guy is dead. It’s a real Disney weekend here on earth,” wrote RevRunJnr.

However, another tweet from mikeypod said: “People singing god bless america outside the white house. I don't care who it is, celebrating someone's death creeps me out.”

However, for many New Yorkers, the news was cause for tears as the news brought back memories. “I was here on 9/11,” recalls Bruce Wexler of the “tragic day,” and dabbing his eyes with a tissue as he walked by ground zero. “This is a special day.”

Although he was happy that bin Laden was killed, accountant Winston Anderson says he’s worried some “lone wolf” will try to emulate the alleged mastermind. “It’s good that he has to pay for what he’s done,” says Mr. Anderson, who works close to ground zero. “But we can’t stop defending America against terrorism.”

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