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America Reacts President Obama lays a wreath at Ground Zero in New York in memory of 9/11 victims, four days after U.S. forces killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. It was President Obama's first visit to Ground Zero.(PHOTO: Wu Jingdan/Xinhua/Photoshot/

America Reacts

News of al Qaeda leader’s end brings mixed emotions

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By Scholastic News Kid Reporters

President Barack Obama honored the victims of terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 on Thursday at the site of the World Trade Center in New York City. He visited the site to lay a wreath and observe a moment of silence. He also visited a fire station that lost 15 of its firefighters that day.

The wreath laying came four days after Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, was killed in a U.S. military operation in Pakistan.

Scholastic News Kid Reporters have meanwhile been talking to their teachers, fellow students, family, friends and others about their reaction to this week’s events.

On a Military Base in New Jersey

The news meant heightened security at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in Wrightstown, New Jersey.  Much like the days and months after 9/11, building identification signposts were covered with sheets to avoid aerial detection.

"It makes you realize that your loved one could be a target, even stateside," said Bernadette Mastroianni, whose husband Peter is Assistant Director of Operations for the 819 Global Support Squadron at Joint Base.

The guards at the gates are taking their time to more carefully check ID cards when anyone enters the base.

"That happened after 9/11 as well," Mastroianni said. "I remember when we went to the base within a week of 9/11 to drop Pete off to head to [Afghanistan]. It was so eerie and sad, with the sheets [covering the signs] blowing in the wind."

When she drove Pete to the gate on that day 10 years ago, he had on his desert camouflage and all his gear.

"The gate guard said quietly, 'Go get him sir,' and saluted," she said. "I am glad they finally did, even if it took almost 10 years."

In Florida, Remembering the USS Cole

Jesse Neal was a petty officer in the United States Navy from 1998 to 2002. He was on board the USS Cole when it was attacked by al Qaeda suicide bombers on October 12, 2000 in the Yemini port of Aden. Seventeen sailors were killed and 39 were injured. On 9/11, Neal was stationed at the Norfolk Naval base in Norfolk, Virginia. He is now a professional wrestler living in Orlando, Florida.

"The sun definitely shined a little brighter the following day," Neal told Scholastic News about the announcement that bin Laden had been killed. He added that he hoped the death would help end the war in Afghanistan.

"Hopefully they bring our troops home," he said. "That's the only thing that matters."

A Teacher in California

Nick Kahlie, a social studies teacher from Connections Academy in Mission Viejo, California, had to face a class full of students when the 9/11 attacks occurred. He was told by administrators not to talk about what was happening.

"[Bin Laden's death is] partial closure of a terrible moment in American history," Kahlie said. "His death, while bringing partial justice, doesn't change what happened. I can only hope that bin Laden's death will be a warning to other possible terrorists of what will happen if you take the lives of innocent people."

At a School in Bettendorf, Iowa

Lisa Reid, the principal of Bettendorf Middle School, was teaching 5th grade at the time of the 9/11 attacks. She remembers feeling shocked as she watched the events unfold throughout the day.  With bin Laden now gone, "it may bring a conclusion for some, but may just open a can of worms," she said. As far as this affecting the war in Afghanistan, she is unsure.

"If it is handled appropriately, it may bring calm," she said. "If not, it could just ignite another fire."

A Family Member in Charlottesville, Virginia

Terri Fraikes' brother was on the second plane that crashed into the World Trade Center on 9/11.

"The world just seemed to stop," she remembers about that day.  Bin Laden's death is the completion of only one of many missions in the fight against terrorism, Fraikes said.

"I think that he did many bad things and it won't be bad that he's gone," she said. "But I don't think we should celebrate."

Somber Reflection in New Jersey

Mark Vaysberg shares that sense of mixed emotions. Vaysberg was late for a meeting on the 103rd floor at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. That 15 minutes stuck in traffic saved his life. 

"It always seemed that if they did that-[killed bin Laden]-it would feel much better to me and would help heal the feeling of loss of my friends and coworkers," he said. "It does feel satisfying, but doesn't make me feel safer than before. I just wish we could do something to stop all of the terrorists in the world and let people enjoy life."

Also in Virginia, a Broken Heart

In Weyers Cave, Virginia on Monday, Gary Ruebush took the day off from work and waved a large American flag bearing his nephew's name from a bridge over Interstate 81. Cars and trucks honked at him in support throughout the day.

"He would be proud of America today," Ruebush said of his nephew.

Muslims Rejoice in Dearborn, Michigan

Dearborn, Michigan is home to the largest Arab American population in the U.S. On the night of bin Laden's death, a group of Arab Americans spent the night near the Dearborn City Hall cheering and waving American flags.

"Here at CAIR-Michigan we welcome the elimination of Osama bin Laden and his network," said Raheem Hanifa, the Outreach Coordinator of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Detroit. "He [bin Laden] painted a very negative picture of who Muslims are and what Islam is. It was surprising to hear the news."

Kids in Albuquerque, New Mexico

Most of the kids who talked to Scholastic News in New Mexico were not even born on 9/11. They don't remember what it was like to go through airport security with your shoes on and a drink in your hand. The death of a terrorist is difficult to comprehend.

"This is scary to me," said 7-year-old Maria E. "I think when someone does the wrong thing, it is not good. I think he needed to be punished. It is also sad that he had to die."

Castel G., 13, was three when the attacks took place.

"I think this is an important day for our country," he said. "I think that justice is important and I think the U.S. needed to step up and do something. I'm glad that we don't have to worry about bin Laden personally, but I am worried about his friends and family who are still out there and what they might do to retaliate against the U.S."

Ten-year-old Devante R. said that bin Laden's death was both a "good and a bad thing."

"It had to happen but I think it is sad, too," he said. "I don't know what will happen next. I hope [President] Obama knows so that he can do something to stop the war without anyone else dying."

Learning in Atlanta, Georgia

At the Paidea School in Atlanta, teacher Jonny Poulton let the class listen to the speech delivered by President Barack Obama. The middle school class also reviewed headlines online and discussed the news to better understand what happened. One student, Miles E., age 12, said he was surprised at how little some of his classmates knew about bin Laden.

"Some of my classmates didn't know who Osama bin Laden was," Miles said. "Everybody already knew about 9/11. The only thing people needed to know was who Osama bin Laden was."

Most decided it was good that the terrorist leader was dead, but were unsure how his death would affect the war in Afghanistan.

"I guess it'll help a little bit because al Qaeda has kind of been a problem for us for a while," Miles said. "It's not gone, but now that their leader is, maybe the war against Afghanistan won't be as hard."

In New York City

The day of the attacks still brings back memories to many, especially those who witnessed it, like Nimesh Gandhi of New York City. Gandhi worked at Cisco Systems, only a half a mile north of the World Trade Center towers. He was assigned to the mayor's office to bring phone service back for the first responders. His work also helped the mayor stay in touch with President George W. Bush over the next few days.

"Everything that had happened that day, that moment, 9-11-01, was a very significant moment that changed my life," Gandhi said. "To me, I'm not excited about this [the death of Osama bin Laden]. It doesn't effect me in sort of a glory way. But I do feel justice has been served and I think for the nation it's symbolic."

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