Crowds jammed around Ground Zero early Monday to celebrate Osama bin Laden’s death, as residents of the city that bears the worst scars of the September 11 attacks said they could now begin to heal.
The crowd, of mostly young people, New Yorkers and visitors, erupted in jubilation, many chanting “Obama got Osama”.
In the shadow of the World Trade Center, reduced to rubble on that fateful day of September 11, 2001, and which has remained a place of sadness after more than 2,700 lives were lost, tears flowed once again, but this time of joy.
Among the crowds were relatives of the dead firemen and police, who took part in the dramatic rescue as the twin towers collapsed after being hit by two hijacked planes.
“There is no greater joy in my life than to know that this man is dead,” said Harry Gomez, a National Guard trooper who was among the first on the scene of tragedy on the morning of September 11, 2001.
City leaders were barely more diplomatic in their reaction to the demise of the al Qaeda founder. Police chief Raymond Kelly called the death of bin Laden a “welcome milestone” for the families of the victims.
Streets around the site of the World Trade Center towers – ever since tragically known as Ground Zero — quickly filled with thousands of people waving flags and singing the national anthem. New towers are to officially open there on the 10th anniversary in September.
New York firemen who paid a huge human price in the September 11 attacks joined more crowds in Times Square. Just minutes after midnight, New York Fire Department Ladder number 4 truck rolled into the square to be applauded by crowds.
“Ten years and finally we got him,” Captain Patrice McLead, from Ladder 4, told AFP. “After all the losses and such a tragedy, we can finally be happy again. I hope this will bring a sense of closure, for all of us, including Muslims.”
About 400 police and fire personnel died when the towers crashed. Zeshan Hamdani, whose brother Mohammad died rescuing victims in the towers, also found relief in the death of bin Laden. “I am happy but I feel like crying. It’s great to finally get this guy,” he said.
“The killing of bin Laden does not lessen the suffering that Americans experienced at his hands,” said New York mayor Michael Bloomberg.
“New Yorkers have waited nearly 10 years for this news. It is my hope that it will bring some closure and comfort to all those who lost loved ones.”