Barb Pemberton holds a photo of her sister, Susan Sauer, on the fifth anniversary of 9-11.
UVA professor emeritus Ruhi Ramazani calls the death of Osama bin Laden "neatly done."
FILE PHOTO BY RYAN HOOVER
Some Americans responded to news about the death of Osama bin Laden much like the Munchkins did when Dorothy vanquished the Wicked Witch in the Wizard of Oz: with jubilant cheers and official proclamations.
Local television cameras captured frenzied UVA students at Boylan Heights chanting "USA, USA," with raised beer bottles after the news was released late May 1 that America's number one enemy had been killed.
Congressman Robert Hurt called bin Laden's death "a great victory in the War on Terror," and the first-term Republican was moved enough to commend Democratic President Barack Obama along with President George W. Bush and their teams "for their resolve in seeing this mission through to its success.”
The assassination of the man who launched the deadly decade-ago attacks on New York and the Pentagon prompted politicians to issue statements that included the words "justice served" and "closure."
But for some like Burley Middle School teacher Barb Pemberton, who suffered personal loss on September 11, 2001, it's just a little too soon for her to share any talk about closure.
"It brings it all back," says an emotional Pemberton.
On that crisp fall morning nearly 10 years ago, Pemberton's sister, Susan Sauer, had been at a business meeting on the 99th floor of the North Tower at the World Trade Center and died in the daylight attack.
This time, Pemberton was awakened at 1am on May 2 with a phone call bearing the news that bin Laden was dead.
"I was stunned," says Pemberton. "I'm glad they finally found him. Ten years is an awfully long time for the mastermind of 9-11."
Still, Pemberton finds little joy in the fact that bin Laden was killed and admits she's worried about U.S. troops and fears retaliation.
"I'm not an eye-for-an-eye person," she says. "I would have liked to see him brought to justice through the court system.
During a recent trip to Oklahoma City for the 16th anniversary of the domestic terrorism there, Pemberton learned that family members of victims recalled the smirk of Timothy McVeigh as he sat through his trial, and she has wondered whether bin Laden had been doing the same over the past 10 years, thinking he got away with killing 3,000 Americans in the unprecedented airplane-based attack.
"I'm devastated by the number of people killed or wounded because of this man," she says.
"It had to be done," says Middle East expert and UVA professor emeritus Ruhi Ramazani, who commends the military operation that took out bin Laden. "It was neatly done. And to our knowledge, there was no collateral damage."
In the 2001 attacks, observes Ramazani, bin Laden accomplished something neither the Japanese at Pearl Harbor nor the British burning Washington did: shattering the notion of American invincibility.
"Before 9-11, we never had this sense of the need to protect ourselves," he says. "We had to create Homeland Security. It's unprecedented, and enormously costly."
If the feeling of vulnerability gets assuaged with the assassination of bin Laden, Ramazani cautions that Americans should prepare for retaliation.
One positive outcome of finding bin Laden is showing the world "we have the ability to take care of ourselves and bring people to justice," says the scholar, who sees an uplifting effect on the spirits and the morale of the American people.
"People are spontaneously celebrating," Ramazani says. "This had hurt our confidence in ourselves."
Update 9:48pm: Misspelling in caption of Osama bin Laden corrected.