Local News

Bin Laden death bittersweet for 9/11 survivors

Posted May 2, 2011 6:07 p.m. EDT
Updated May 2, 2011 7:07 p.m. EDT

— The news that the U.S. military had killed Osama bin Laden was bittersweet for survivors of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that he plotted.

First responders and family members of those killed in the collapse of the World Trade Center towers in New York and in the subsequent war on terror expressed relief Monday that bin Laden no longer posed a threat while recalling the pain he inflicted on thousands of Americans.

John Manley's daughter, Sara, was enjoying a successful Wall Street career when she was killed in the 9/11 attacks. He said that bin Laden's death doesn't bury the pain he's felt for most of the past decade.

"The loss can never be changed," said Manley, who lives in Chapel Hill. "Psychologically, it's great (to know bin Laden is dead). We got rid of a murderous, evil person, and that's a positive. How much difference is it going to make in the long run? Only time will tell that."

Almost every day since 9/11, Manley has sought solace in the shade of a magnolia tree at the Carolina Inn that was planted in his daughter's honor and in memory of her joyful wedding reception, which was held at the inn a month before her death.

"Just think about how this tree has grown and how the memory of Sara has spread," he said, noting that the Carolina Inn hosted the 10th annual Sara Manley Harvey Easter Egg Hunt for underprivileged children two weeks ago.

"I'm happy that people may walk by and see this (tree) and think of Sara and say a little prayer for her," he said.

Hero's family haunted by memories

Cary native John Cerqueira carried a woman down 69 flights of stairs in one of the World Trade Center towers after the terrorist attacks. Although he was hailed as a hero, his mother said Monday that 9/11 was "the worst day of our lives."

"When the first building fell, I was watching TV, not knowing what building he was in. It was pretty awful," Anna Maria Cerqueira said.

The family is still haunted by the memory of the collapsing towers, Anna Cerqueira said. Although they are relieved that bin Laden is dead, his slaying cannot erase those memories, she said.

"He hid all these years. Is that not a coward?" she said. "I do hope he suffered."

John Cerqueira has lived in Charlotte but is moving back to Raleigh this weekend to be closer to his family. He said it's felt odd to be happy that someone is dead, but the news of bin Laden's death is reason to celebrate.

Firefighter believes justice is served

Tony Salerno was a New York firefighter whose station was 13 blocks from the two office towers in lower Manhattan. Eleven of his comrades died trying to help people escape as the towers collapsed.

"Everything was gray. I don't remember seeing a single color but gray," said Salerno, who now lives in Apex. "You could smell that something was wrong. You could smell death. You could smell it."

He said he couldn't believe it when he heard Osama bin Laden had been killed.

"My hope is that the people up in heaven are looking down on him saying, 'Justice served,'" he said.

Salerno retired a few years ago after suffering a back injury on the job. An American flag bearing the name of everyone who died on 9/11 flies outside his Apex home.

He chokes up when he thinks about the military members who brought justice for the victim's families.

"Families who I know thank them wholeheartedly for what they did," he said, adding that he also is grateful.

Army widow glad mission accomplished

Since 9/11, Fort Bragg has had almost a continuous deployment in Iraq, Afghanistan or both. More than 550 soldiers and airmen from the post have died in combat since the terrorist attacks.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Stanley Harriman was the first of those casualties, killed in a firefight in Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan six months after 9/11.

Harriman, 34, was an engineer who trained Special Forces soldiers before becoming a warrant officer. As he watched the news with his wife on Sept. 11, 2001, he predicted a long and costly war.

"He said, 'You know, we're going to war.' I said, 'I know,' and he said, 'You know, it's going to be bloody,'" Sheila Harriman Reid said. "He said, 'We're going to lose a lot of soldiers in this war.' I said, 'I'm sure we will.'"

Reid said she never expected it to take almost 10 years to catch up to bin Laden, but she said she knew American forces would get him – dead or alive.

"If in the event we didn't finish what we started there, then my husband's death would have been in vain," she said. "I believe that every step we have taken throughout the last nine years has been a step toward that goal (of completing the mission)."

More Fort Bragg soldiers will deploy to Afghanistan this fall as the U.S. tries to stabilize the war-torn country.

"My message (to those soldiers and their families) would be that we are one step closer to our family members coming home," she said.