9/11 kin praise bin Laden death while nursing pain

Families of some of the victims of the Sept. 11. 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center gather at a news conference as Sally Regenhard, mother of deceased firefighter Christian Regenhard, center seated, speaks about her reaction to the death of Osama Bin Laden. The others are, standing from left, Rosemary Cain, mother of firefighter George Cain and Russell and Joyce Mercer, parents of firefighter Scott Kopytko, Seated from left are retired NYFD Deputy Cheif Jim Richards, father of Jim Richards Jr.; Sally Regenhard; attorney Norman Seigel and Rosalie Tallon with son Paddy, sister of Sean Tallon. (AP Photo/Stephen Chernin)

May 2, 2011 8:57:37 PM PDT
Nearly 10 years after his wife was killed at the World Trade Center, Charles Wolf still falls asleep each night on one side of his bed.

On Monday, news of the death of the man who helped orchestrate that emptiness brought Wolf a muted joy. He declared himself glad it was finally over - still aware that, for him, it never really can be.

"This is a feeling of happiness, but not jump-up-and-down happiness," said Wolf, who lost his wife, Katherine, in the attacks. "The idea of closure is something that really, really - it doesn't exist, to tell you the truth."

Family members of those lost on Sept. 11 reflected Monday on a decade of grief that cannot be erased by any worldly victory. Still, the death of the shadowy figure who had taken pleasure in their sorrow brought some a sense of relief.

"I'd like to think that all the people who were murdered on Sept. 11 are celebrating," said Maureen Santora, whose firefighter son, Christopher, was killed in the collapsed towers. She said she knows her son, who died at age 23, would have been "dancing in the streets" at word of bin Laden's death.

"I can hear him up in heaven yelling and screaming," she said. "I can see him being just thrilled."

But she, too, said there would be no closure for her. Instead, "There will be a hole in my heart until the day I die," she said.

When he heard of bin Laden's death, Mike Low went into the bedroom that had belonged to his daughter Sara before the flight attendant was killed aboard American Airlines Flight 11. He sat down in front of a glass case holding his daughter's remains, and he told her the news.

"For my family and I, it's good, it's desirable, it's right," said the Batesville, Ark., resident. "It certainly brings an ending to a major quest for all of us."

Whatever the feelings brought up by the close of the hunt for bin Laden, victory was absent for Gene Yancey, who remains haunted by thoughts of the last minutes of his daughter Kathryn L. LaBorie, who was the head flight attendant on United Airlines Flight 175.

"Justice has prevailed, I guess," said the Colorado Springs, Colo., resident. "It's good in a lot of ways and I'm glad they got him, but I'm so sad about my daughter."

Lifelong Catholic Barbara Minervino found herself struggling yet again with a central tenet of her faith: forgiveness.

"As I lay my head down on the pillow last night, I said, `Lord, are you really going to forgive him?' I don't want to. I don't know that I can ever forgive him," said the Middletown, N.J., resident, whose husband, Louis, was killed in the Sept. 11 attacks.

"I just pray that however I'm supposed to feel, I'll eventually feel," she said. "If God wants to forgive him, that's God. I can't."

Others relished what felt like a touch of retribution after years of delay.

"I would hope that Osama bin Laden was subject to the same brutal and prolonged death that my son and all the other victims had on 9/11," said Sally Regenhard, whose firefighter son, Christian, died at the World Trade Center.

And for some, bin Laden's death was not an end but only a milestone in a lifelong undertaking.

"The story of 9/11 is not over," said Anthoula Katsimatides, who on Monday joined public officials at the World Trade Center site, where her brother John perished. It remains important, she said, "to tell everyone, future generations, of what happened that day."

Wolf said he first learned of the news when a friend telephoned him Sunday night, saying excitedly: "You know that guy that killed your wife. They got him!"

After that, he said, he had chills for an hour or two - a "tingling, tingling all over me."

"There's one man, there's one piece of evil energy - tremendously evil energy - that is off of this planet," Wolf said. "It is out of this physical realm and God will throw his soul in hell, the depths of hell. And you can be sure of that. There's no court on earth that could have done what the final judge has done."

Still, none of that changes the lingering sense of absence at night, as he makes room for the woman who is no longer there.

"That other side is empty still," he said. "I still miss her."


Contributing to this report were Associated Press videojournalist Bonny Ghosh and writers Verena Dobnik, Tom Hays and Tom McElroy in New York, and writers Nomaan Merchant in Little Rock, Ark., Wayne Parry in Middletown, N.J., and Michelle R. Smith in Providence, R.I.