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Osama bin Laden, leader of the terrorist network al-Qaida, was killed during a raid carried out by U.S. forces 35 miles north of Islamabad in Pakistan on Sunday. His death came nine years, seven months and 20 days after the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks.
As a result the last few days have led to mass celebrations around the country. The news has also led to heightened security in Lower Manhattan, throughout the city and at U.S. embassies and major transit hubs all over the world. Also, families of 9/11 victims everywhere have expressed a sense of vindication.
“We’ll never get our son back, no matter what happens… but I’m very joyful today that, finally, someone who is filled with this kind of hatred is no longer with us,” said Maureen Santora, mother of 23-year-old firefighter, Christopher Santora, who died on 9/11.
Though al-Qaida took a very big hit, said Santora, “We’re not out of the woods… we have to continue to fight, continue to be vigilant and continue to stick together.”
The news “brought some happiness to me and my family,” said Jim Riches, who lost his 29-year-old son, Jim Riches, Jr., on 9/11. Nevertheless, he said, “I think the threat is greater than it ever was. They’re going to want to strike back.”
Bin Laden’s killing indeed prompted City agencies to prepare for terrorist retaliation attempts by ramping up security, similar to the days following the attacks.
“Our assumption is, bin Laden’s disciples would like nothing better than to avenge his death by another attack in New York. That’s our operating premise,” said N.Y.C. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly at a press conference Monday at 4 World Trade Center. As a result, Kelly and his team are assigning heavily armed officers and critical response personnel to key locations including the Financial District and Times Square.
The police are keeping a close eye on bridges, ferries and water taxis in the Tri-state area.
The New York Police Department has also increased its bag-search regimen in subway stations and other crowded places to keep an eye out for suspicious packages and “any [other] evidence that our transit system, infrastructure and iconic locations are being targeted,” according to Kelly. Metropolitan Transit Authority officials are deploying additional cops at many transit hubs during morning and evening rush hours. “We will retain this heightened presence until further notice,” according to Jay Walder, the M.T.A.’s chairman and chief executive officer.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey issued a statement early Monday morning saying that the agency is increasing police presence at all P.A. facilities, including the W.T.C. site. “This response is not based on a current threat, but out of an abundance of caution until we have the chance to learn more,” said P.A. spokesperson Steve Coleman. The facilities, he noted, will remain fully operational in the meantime.
Officials also expect increased car congestion in Lower Manhattan, since Vesey Street between Broadway and Church Streets has been closed off to traffic, to make room for parked media trucks.
Officials would not immediately say how long the street would remain closed.
Despite the high alert, however, intelligence officials are not anticipating an imminent act of violence in Downtown or elsewhere to avenge bin Laden’s death.
Local pols, officials respond
“As of now, I’m happy to say, there are no new immediate threats against our city,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg at Monday’s press conference. “But there is no doubt,” he continued, “that we remain a top target, and the killing of bin Laden will not change that. Nor will it distract us from a mission that remains our absolute highest priority — defending our city and country against all those who use violence to attack freedom.”
Julie Menin, chairperson of Community Board 1, said the elimination of bin Laden has granted justice to the Downtown community. “While we will never have real closure on this terrible chapter in our nation,” she said, “today we have seen the perpetrator of these horrific acts brought to justice, a moment our community has been waiting for for the last 10 years.”
Americans should rejoice that bin Laden left the world “knowing that he had failed to crush the American spirit, and that New York — the city he planned to destroy — grows stronger and more diverse with every passing day,” said N.Y.S. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver in a statement.
“Today is a remarkable moment in United States history and the fight against terrorism,” said Joe Daniels, president and chief executive officer of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. “At the [W.T.C., the victims’] names will be etched in bronze, a tribute to our nation’s steadfast belief in… our freedoms and our ability to overcome the worst of humanity with the best.”
Daniels added, “We think of their families and send our prayers.”
Upon hearing the news on a radio broadcast Sunday night, “The thing that crossed my mind was the government budget,” said District One Councilmember Margaret Chin. Recovering from 9/11, she explained, is a shared effort. “Individuals who are making a lot of money… need to pay their fair share of taxes, so we can have programs for our children and for our seniors, in rebuilding our city.”
On 9/11, Chin lost a student from The William Mckinley School’s (P.S. 63) after-school program, where the Councilwoman formerly taught.
The officials at the press conference also spoke to the completion of the new W.T.C. site, especially the memorial and museum, as an important chapter in Downtown’s reemergence from 9/11.
U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler said in a statement, “One of the most evil men in history, bin Laden was responsible for murdering thousands of Americans and tearing an awful hole in the heart of my district on September 11, 2001. Now he is finally dead.”
Nadler continued, “I congratulate President Obama and the United States military for an impressive and precise operation in Pakistan. We owe a great debt of gratitude to our brave men and women in uniform and to our intelligence forces who carried out the daring mission to bring bin Laden to justice.”
BY Aline Reynolds — additional reporting by John Bayles