Bin Laden's Death Brings Comfort, but Not an End to Anxieties
It will mean some closure for many, but sense of threat lingers, experts say
MONDAY, May 2, 2011 (HealthDay News) -- The long-awaited demise of the world's most wanted man, 9/11 terror mastermind Osama bin Laden, comes as a welcome relief to most Americans.
But the pain, the sense of loss, the burden of sorrow, and nagging anxieties will remain, mental-health experts said Monday.
Diane Massaroli, who lost her husband, Michael Massaroli, in the World Trade Center attacks almost 10 years ago, told CNN she feels "that justice has been done. I feel some overall calm that I haven't felt in 10 years. I never thought it would happen... never thought it would give me a feeling of closure." Now, she added, "I feel better ... like I can start a new chapter in my life."
For the broader American public, there is also a "partial sense of closure, in the sense that we recognize Osama [bin Laden] led us to war. This allows us to put an end to capturing the world's most wanted man," said Alan Hilfer, director of psychology at Maimonides Medical Center in New York City.
But, Hilfer stressed, people also realize that terrorist leaders can be replaced, that Al Qaeda still poses a very real threat, "and Americans are aware they can't sit back and relax. No one is saying that the head of the beast is cut off so the beast can't live."
"We're waiting and anticipating, just like we have for the last 10 years," he added.
That lingering sense of anxiety was underscored Monday morning when the U.S. State Department issued a warning to Americans traveling or living abroad to be vigilant, even going so far as to tell Americans who are overseas to stay home or in their hotels and not to gather in groups, CNN reported.
All this came as today's headlines blared with the news that bin Laden had been killed Sunday in a compound in Pakistan by a U.S. special forces unit, and his body then buried at sea.
Comfort has been sorely needed since Sept. 11, 2001, President Barack Obama noted in a televised speech to the nation late Sunday night. He paid homage to the emotional losses that so many have endured since the 9/11 attacks, and to the "nearly 3,000 citizens taken from us, leaving a gaping hole in our hearts."
"On nights like this one, we can say to those families who have lost loved ones to Al Qaeda's terror: Justice has been done," he said.
But just how much will bin Laden's death affect those touched most deeply by the tragedy?
Dr. Alan Manevitz, a family psychiatrist with Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City who was also one of the first responders on 9/11, stressed that nothing can entirely erase the losses of that morning.
"It doesn't necessarily lessen the suffering of the families," he said. Although it may make this year's 10th anniversary service "much more meaningful ... it's a sad reason to be happy," he added.
Still, as word of bin Laden's death spread late Sunday night, spontaneous celebrations broke out across America -- from the World Trade Center, the site of the worst carnage on Sept. 11, 2001, to the gates of the White House, to cities and towns big and small.
"We've been waiting a long time for this day," Lisa Ramaci, a New Yorker whose husband was a freelance journalist killed in the Iraq War, told the Associated Press early Monday. "I think it's a relief for New York tonight just in the sense that we had this 10 years of frustration just building and building, wanting this guy dead, and now he is, and you can see how happy people are."
Ten years ago, Dionne Layne was a mother with a small child, living in Brooklyn, where she watched the second World Trade Center tower collapse after the terrorist attack. Now living in Stamford, Conn., the 44-year-old spent the entire night at Ground Zero with her two children -- 11 and 9 years old.
Layne said she planned to remain Monday with her children at the site because "they can't get this in a history class. They have to be a part of this."
Monday morning was cloudy in Shanksville, Pa., where a plane hijacked by bin Laden's henchmen crashed in a field after passengers battled back, averting a presumed attack on Washington, D.C. A fence-lined overlook serves as a temporary memorial until a permanent one is built to United Airlines Flight 93, the AP reported.
"I thought of Sept. 11 and the people lost," said Daniel Pyle, 33, of Shanksville, who stopped at the site while on his way to work at a lawn-care company. "I wanted to pay homage to the people lost that day. I think this brings a little bit of closure."
This is "important news for us, and for the world," said Gordon Felt, president of an organization representing the families of people who died when Flight 93 crashed. In a statement, Felt said bin Laden's death "cannot ease our pain, or bring back our loved ones," but does provide "a measure of comfort," the AP reported.
Late Sunday, a crowd started to gather in front of the White House before Obama addressed the nation about bin Laden's death. Arlington, Va., resident Marlene English told the AP: "It's not over, but it's one battle that's been won, and it's a big one."
And at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, home to baseball's Phillies and their famously vocal fans, news of bin Laden's death prompted the crowd -- on hand for a game against the New York Mets -- to break out in chants of "U.S.A. U.S.A.!"
Find out more about the psychological impact of the 9/11 attacks at this New York City website.