NYC marks bin Laden's death at WTC site and beyond

By Karen Matthews

Associated Press

Published: Monday, May 2 2011 12:10 p.m. MDT

A crowd of people look over ground zero in New York, Monday, May 2, 2011. Osama bin Laden, the face of global terrorism and architect of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, was killed in a firefight with elite American forces in Pakistan on Monday, May 2, 2011 then quickly buried at sea.

Seth Wenig, Associated Press

NEW YORK — New Yorkers' attention once again focused on ground zero Monday, this time with cheers and words of encouragement after the death of Osama bin Laden, the architect of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other officials held a briefing Monday at the site, where they honored victims of the 1993 and 2001 attacks and detailed progress on the Sept. 11 memorial and reconstruction.

"Osama bin Laden is dead, and the World Trade Center site is teeming with new life," Bloomberg said. "Osama bin Laden is dead and lower Manhattan is pulsing with new activity. Osama bin Laden is dead, and New York City's spirit has never been stronger."

Ordinary New Yorkers also expressed relief at the demise of bin Laden but cautioned that other foes who seek to harm the U.S. are still at large.

"I'm happy they got him," said Walter Hillegass, who volunteered at the cleanup of the World Trade Center site and returned Monday. "But there's always going to be another one right behind him."

A few visitors to the site waved American flags or carried homemade signs celebrating the news. Others raised their phones to shoot photo after photo of the towers now under construction at the perimeter of the site.

Sylvain Hinzelin, a tourist from Nancy, France, was at the site to celebrate with Americans.

"It's a great day for the USA," he said. "It's a great day for you, for the world."

Dionne Layne of Stamford, Conn., spent the night at ground zero with her two children, ages 9 and 11. "They can't get this in a history class," she said. "They have to be a part of this."

Bill Steyert, a Vietnam War veteran from Queens, planted himself across the street from the site wearing a placard that had a front-page photo of bin Laden pasted over a list of the names of the Sept. 11 victims.

"We got him!" he shouted to passers-by.

"I'm usually against violence," Steyert said. "But I believe that we have a right to defend ourselves against someone like him."

Catherine Esposito, of Hazlet, N.J., came to mourn her firefighter brother, Frankie Esposito, who was killed on Sept. 11.

"It makes me feel better knowing that the extremists and the radicals over there are hopefully as upset as we were on that day," she said.

Pamela Afesi of Jersey City, N.J., said bin Laden's death was "bittersweet" because it forced her to think back on the 2001 attacks.

"This is on my way to work, so I wanted to stop by and pay my respects," Afesi said.

There was beefed-up security surrounding ground zero and at New York's major transit hubs.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said there were no specific threats. But he said the department is operating on assumption that "bin Laden's disciples would like nothing better than to avenge his death than another attack in New York."

"I feel great," said plainclothes Port Authority Police Officer Vincent Caruso, stationed at the Port Authority bus terminal during the morning rush. "We're still going to have terrorism, but at least the families whose loved ones were killed downtown will have some closure."

Michael Luciano, of Brooklyn, waiting for a train at Grand Central Terminal, said he watched President Barack Obama's announcement of bin Laden's death Sunday night after receiving a text from the Huffington Post saying that the president would address the nation.

He and his roommates gathered nervously around the television. They half-joked that the announcement might be about bin Laden. When it was, their reaction was: "Oh my God."

"It's not quite the end of a long fight," Luciano said, "but it's a little bit of justice for the families of 9/11 and everybody who's American. ... It's a big day for justice."

Peter Blachley, a Manhattan art gallery owner taking a subway train at Penn Station, cautioned against premature celebration.

"I'm not convinced there won't be more attacks; you have to be watchful," Blachley said.

Judy Banez, a nurse to commutes to New York from Pennsylvania via the Port Authority bus terminal, said she was happy to see the increased police presence there.

"That's OK," Banez said. "We're being vigilant and we can now go on with our lives."

Associated Press writers Kiley Armstrong, Verena Dobnik and Ula Ilnytzky contributed to this story.

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