Family Matters Blog: Families React to bin Laden’s Death

WASHINGTON, May 3, 2011 — I heard the news of Osama bin Laden’s death when doing my usu­al late-night work­out in my kids’ play room. My hus­band burst through the door and told me the pres­i­dent was about to make an announce­ment.
I turned on the news and watched as the coun­try cel­e­brat­ed the demise of the mas­ter­mind behind the 9/11 attacks, which claimed 3,000 lives in New York, Penn­syl­va­nia and at the Pen­ta­gon.

Those attacks are what led this nation to a war on ter­ror­ism that con­tin­ues today, and prompt­ed me to re-enlist in the Air Force, even though I had just sep­a­rat­ed from the ser­vice to pur­sue a civil­ian career.

Over the past decade, as a jour­nal­ist, I’ve writ­ten about the wars and seen first­hand the wound­ed ser­vice­mem­bers recov­er­ing from life-alter­ing attacks. I’ve vis­it­ed Dover Air Force Base in Delaware and watched as fall­en ser­vice­mem­bers returned to U.S. soil from com­bat in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

But my expe­ri­ences pale in com­par­i­son to those who have direct ties to the 9/11 after-effects – fam­i­lies of the fall­en. I reached out to sev­er­al fam­i­lies to find out how they felt in the wake of bin Laden’s death, and wrote about their respons­es in the Amer­i­can Forces Press Ser­vice arti­cle, “Sur­vivors Call bin Laden’s Death ‘Bit­ter­sweet.’”

After talk­ing with sev­er­al fam­i­lies, I real­ized there were mixed emo­tions about the news – a sense of ela­tion cou­pled with a sense of cau­tion about what lies ahead. Wendy Duff­man, whose broth­er died in Afghanistan, said she first felt elat­ed when she heard the news.

“I woke up for the first time in four years feel­ing like my broth­er didn’t die in vain,” Duff­man told me. How­ev­er, she also cau­tioned against com­pla­cen­cy. “I don’t want peo­ple to for­get there are oth­ers like bin Laden,” she said. “The war isn’t over. We still have troops in harm’s way.”

Lisa Dolan called the news “bit­ter­sweet.” Her hus­band, Navy Capt. Bob Dolan, was killed in the Pen­ta­gon on 9/11 when Flight 77 struck the build­ing, “Noth­ing will bring back my hus­band and the almost 3,000 men, women and chil­dren that were killed on Sept. 11, 2011,” she said. “Is there some vin­di­ca­tion in the death of bin Laden? Maybe.

“How­ev­er, I do feel incred­i­bly proud of our mil­i­tary,” she con­tin­ued. “They have sac­ri­ficed so much for our free­doms.” You can read more respons­es from fam­i­lies in my arti­cle. For more on bin Laden’s death, vis­it the AFPS spe­cial report, “The Demise of Osama bin Laden.” If you have a relat­ed sto­ry to share, please don’t hes­i­tate to write in.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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