Late Sunday night President Obama announced that American forces had killed Osama bin Laden in a firefight at his compound in Pakistan. The news came almost 10 years after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Brooklyn, like the rest of the city, lost friends and loved ones on 9/11.
Amid the celebrations that erupted at news of bin Laden’s death, and the painful memories of the attacks that changed the city, the country and the world, we set out across the borough to hear how Brooklynites were reacting to bin Laden’s killing.
(Contributions by Joe Deaux, Bilal Lakhani, Lillian Rizzo, Ivana Kottasová, Amaris Castillo, and Evan MacDonald.)
Are you in Brooklyn? Let us know what you see and hear!
(Contributed by Tatiana Sanchez)
Osama is Dead; Brooklyn Reacts by tsanchez1488
12:11 p.m. – A giant American flag has been rolled out to celebrate Bin Laden’s death in Little Pakistan. Things are beginning to look a little stage-managed, primarily for the camera crews descending on this street. ABC 7 is here. A New York Times reporter has also arrived.
11:35 a.m. – Engine 276 is making its way to its station, cramped in between a New York Sports Club and brick houses on East 14th Street off of Kings Highway. While the truck pulls in the firefighters and captain stand in a circle chatting. They won’t make any comment until they’re out of uniform, they say, but they are all smiles. One fireman, out of uniform and in a white tucked in button down and holding a clipboard, does mention that the FDNY commissioner released a statement today that they are very proud of the US military.
11:37 a.m. – A man shouting outside causes concern within the Council of Pakistan. The receptionists head out to check what the commotion is about. “You never know how people will react to the news,” she says. It turns out that it’s just some maintenance workers having an argument between themselves. You can sense that this community feels on the edge. Three media crews have come here today to interview people on their reaction to bin Laden’s death.
11:13 a.m. – Engine 254 was about to leave the station when fireman Ward answered the door. He found out last night and turned on the TV but he was not as relieved. “I was glad but it’s still not over,” he says. “There’s still more out there that we have to catch.” Ward mentions he was at the WTC and lost 28 friends in the fire department. Looking down he says goodbye and shuts the door. A few minutes later the garage door raises and he’s putting on his uniform while a truck pulls out of the station with its sirens blaring.
11:05 a.m. – At the Council of Pakistani Organization, an impromptu distribution of sweets to celebrate the death of Bin Laden. This organization was started in the aftermath of 9/11 to help Pakistanis integrate into American society. One middle aged Pakistani woman, who can barely speak English, indulges herself with the sweets and asks a friend, “who died?”
“Bin Laden,” replied her friend, who is here for English language classes. “The guy who made the twin towers fall.”
“Oh that guy. Thank God he’s dead… Wait, are we allowed to say that when a Muslim dies?”
11 a.m. – Riding down Avenue U in a car painted with everything New York – every sports team, saying and building – and blasting “Proud to be an American,” Rockin’ Ray is celebrating. “This is one of the happiest days of my life,” he shouted over the music that he refused to turn down. He’s been driving around all morning blasting American songs and singing along on his microphone. He drives slowly down the avenue and stops for whoever wants to take a photo. Before pulling away he rolls down the window and shouts into his microphone, “Tonight at 8 we’re all going to Bedford Avenue and Avenue X for a memorial. It’s gonna be great!”
10:48 a.m. – “Bin Laden’s death makes me genuinely happy,” says Jani Nawaz, a resident of Little Pakistan on Coney Island Avenue. “Because of him, so many innocent children died back home in Pakistan and he brought all of us (Muslims) a bad name here in America.
“I’m proud of the American government and the Pakistani government,” he continues. “This gives me hope that InshAllah things will get better for us here and people will treat us differently. Bin Laden was never one of us. He just barged into our country without an invitation.”
10:45 a.m. – Charlton Johns, 49, worked at 26 Federal Plaza when the first plane hit the North Tower. He watched from Church Street as the second plane hit. He pulls out his smartphone and says he found out the news on his CNN breaking news application. “What took US intelligence so long?” he says of his first reaction. He complains that former President Bush never found bin Laden, and that President Obama took too long. He says it is important for the government to prevent terrorists from launching another attack. Johns thinks the US should now focus its efforts on the domestic economy, and it starts with an end to foreign wars the country engages in. “Can we withdraw the troops now?” he asks. Next to Johns sits Thomas Ford, 49. Ford was in Charleston, S.C. on 9/11 for a business trip. He says he heard the news last night while he listened to the Mets game. “I heard the ‘U-S-A’ chant,” Ford says. And that’s when the announcers said bin Laden was reported to have been killed, he says.
10:40 a.m. – Christine Ruffin stands with her mother, Earlee Jordan, who is in an electronic wheelchair. Ruffin’s aunt – Jordan’s sister – lost the lower part of her left leg during the 9/11 attacks. Ruffin says her 12- and 14-year-old children ran into her room last night with the news of bin Laden’s death. She does not watch the news, because she says it is too negative. Ruffin wondered if this meant that another attack might happen. “Are we gonna lose more loved ones?” she asks.
10:30 a.m. – Diana Matos, 28, says she has to see it to believe it. Osama bin Laden may have been caught, but he may not be dead, she says. She was watching television when the news broke. She remembers that she lived along the East River on 9/11, and she recalls that she got sick from all the smoke and dust from the collapse of the World Trade Center towers. She says she was fortunate, because she knew no one who was hurt. She asks if anything has really changed. “Bring back the troops,” she says. Matos thinks the US must be prepared, because she thinks “those people” might do worse things.
10:30 a.m.- At Coney Island Engine 318 there isn’t much time to think about Osama bin Laden right now. One truck was already out in the neighborhood and the second one was filled with firemen ready to go out. A fireman still in a polo with FDNY embroidered on it directed the truck out of the station, not giving a comment about the recent news. However at the mention of Osama bin Laden’s death his mouth broke into a wide smile before he called to his superior in the truck. The driver said there was no time to talk and pulled out of the station after smiling and nodding about the news.
10:09 a.m. – The garage door at Bensonhurst’s Engine 253 was still closed and aside from the elevated train overhead on 86th street it was silent. Firemen James Profeta and Felix Adelson, both working at this Engine for the past seven years, were the only men at the Home Watch near the trucks. Profeta says a few of members of their squad were at the WTC but they were too busy to come talk. Profeta participated in the bike tour yesterday, went straight home to pass out and didn’t learn the news until this morning on his ride to work. He was ecstatic. “I actually got goosebumps when I heard,” he says.
Adelson was at the firehouse when he heard the news. He says everyone was so happy and couldn’t shut off the television.
In the back room behind the trucks is a bed, some couches and walls filled with memorials to 9-11.
10:00 a.m. – John Toto, 56, says he found out about the news this morning on the radio. He hasn’t spoken to anybody about it yet. “I think it’s long overdue, but great,” Toto says. He says his son had just started at Pace University on 9/11. It took awhile before his son got a useful cellphone to call home. Toto recalls his son had said it looked like it had just snowed in lower manhattan. Toto says that it feels like the general mood of people is half happy, half subdued.
9:56 a.m. – “I’m afraid there will be more violence in Pakistan because Al Qaeda and the Taliban will try to avenge his death,” says a Pakistani resident in Midwood who declined to give his name. “This is part of a greater game being played by four key players: the Taliban, al Qaeda, Pakistan and America. And behind all of them is Israel.”
9:55 a.m. – Sepreian Watson, 23, says he is skeptical of the news about bin Laden. “I don’t know if he’s really dead,” Watson says. And if he is dead, “I think it’s a little too late, man.” He is uncertain if bin Laden’s death really matters. He said he overhead the news last night in a parking lot from the valet. He says he heard the body was already buried and asks, “Why? Not seeing photos makes me not believe.” He says that the US showed video of Saddam Hussein’s hanging, and thinks he was not even as important as bin Laden.
9:44 a.m. – David Kelton, 51, had just returned from an awards ceremony for his son in Washington state when he got the news. “I felt excited,” Kelton says. He had landed in Newark International Airport and one person found out bin Laden was killed. He says the news spread and the airport was abuzz with excitement. Kelton’s son is a Captain in the 75th Ranger Regiment in the US Army and had just returned from his third tour of duty in Afghanistan. He was awarded the Purple Heart. “I called him immediately. He was excited,” Kelton says.
9:37 a.m – Some Pakistanis in Brooklyn are afraid to speak up on sensitive issues involving terrorism. One woman declined to comment by saying that she doesn’t listen to the news and has nothing to say. Another woman said she had no interest in commenting on the news. Memories of the backlash against the Muslim community in the aftermath of 9\11 are still raw here. The Pakistani community in Midwood was hit particularly hard by FBI led raids on illegal immigrants from Muslim communities. The number of Pakistanis dropped over 50% on the five years following 9/11. Read more.
9:28 a.m. – Across the street from the Bay Ridge firehouse there’s a back entrance to Dunkin Donuts. Sitting at a table with just a small cup of coffee and the New York Post, a retired Brooklyn fireman read all coverage of Osama bin Laden’s death. He wouldn’t give his name because of how he felt. He lost friends in the WTC. “I just kept thinking of the fathers who lost their sons,” he says as he reads a story aloud from the Post about a firefighter friend, James Riches Jr. “After 10 years maybe Osama bin Laden is irrelevant- the war on terrorism is far from over but this is a step in the right direction,” he says. “Maybe if they would have got him on Sept. 12. But I still feel relieved.”
9:15 a.m. – Jesper, 23, and Karl Emil, 22 are tourists from Copenhagen, Denmark. They were 13 and 12 on 9/11, but remember it vividly. “I go home and turn on the TV and my stepdad said, ‘Whoa, this is big,'” Karl Emil says. Jasper says bin Laden’s death is big, but he does not know if it makes a difference. Karl Emil says he thinks Al Qaeda will simply find a new leader. He adds that he hopes the county is careful and considers the possibility of a retaliation by terrorists. But Jasper adds that he hopes nothing happens.
9:07 a.m. – Lutz was not the only fireman happy to hear the news. His fellow workers passed in and out of the elevated garage door, saying in passing, “Thank God,” or “We’re so happy,” or “Finally.” They were getting the fire trucks ready and wouldn’t stop to speak but the mood was obvious. Photos of 9-11 were framed over the Home Watch and in a glass case at the left of the entrance.
9:05 a.m. – Richie Lutz has been a fireman at Engine 242 for three years but has been in the US Army reserve for 13. He’s been to Iraq twice- the last time in 2009. He was in the Bay Ridge firehouse last night when he found out- he says his Army buddies texted him but he thought it was a joke until he turned on the television. “I’m elated but this is bittersweet news,” he says as lights blink on the two fire engines behind him. “We still have a long way to go.”
8:55 a.m.: Bobby Duckett, 72, lives on Lafayette Street in Downtown Brooklyn and got out of bed when he heard the news. “I was really surprised that they really got him.” He says he initially thought the big news was about Libyan President Moammar Gadhafi, because he thought they would never catch bin Laden. “[Navy] S.E.A.L.S are really smart, I mean, you gotta give it to them.” Duckett says he was in Long Island on 9/11 when he got the call from his wife. He says he went outside and saw plumes of smoke billowing from the Manhattan skyline
8:50 a.m.: In front of Borough Hall, Brendan Raftery, 54 and a window clerk for US Postal Service at Brooklyn Municipal Building, says he was home sick the morning of September 11. He says a lot of people died who he knew that day. He manages to blurt a response about the death of bin Laden without hearing the question: “I’ll tell ya, I’m very happy it happened. Thank God, he was evil. He’s the devil.” Raftery says he was happy to hear Pakistan aided the operation, as opposed to the usual narrative that it was the Americans who did it alone. He adds that there’s still more to do, “[bin Laden] was already in retirement.”
8:45 a.m. – In a Pakistani restaurant, Gourmet on Coney Island Avenue, the TV has been tuned into a live transmission of a popular Pakistani channel GEO for a discussion on Bin Laden’s death.
The men on the screen are asking: “Where was the Pakistani military when our sovereignty was being violated. Why don’t we just accept formally that we are just slaves of the US.”
People in the restaurant are watching but not discussing the events unfolding on their screen.
8:30 a.m. – Meanwhile, in Little Pakistan, reactions to the news are mixed.
“The Americans killed their own agent,” says one middle-aged man who did not disclose his name. “We were a peace loving country before the Arabs and the Americans came to our country and started preaching jihad and extremism in our Madrassahs.
“Bin Laden was an excuse to invade countries and secure more oil,” he says. “Think about it, the US is the most technologically advanced country in the world, they can see what’s under this road right now, and you’re telling me they couldn’t find Bin Laden all this time when he was hiding in a mansion?
“I don’t care if I get deported for saying this. I just want people to leave us alone. The Americans, the Arabs, just get out of our country.”
8:20 a.m. – At Ladder 168 and Engine 243 in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, the garage door is open by 8:10 a.m. and firemen are milling about. All say in passing Thank God he’s dead, but all also say they’re too busy to talk. They’re putting equipment away and say they are starting their day anyway. Watching tv in the house watch- a booth with a desk and phone at the front of the station- news of Osama’s death is the only noise outside of the 18th Avenue traffic.
7:34 a.m. – Meanwhile, thousands of New Yorkers spent the night celebrating in the streets around Ground Zero.
7:05 a.m. – Brooklyn is waking up to the news. In some parts of the borough, people celebrated on the streets, setting up fireworks and gathering in spontaneous street parties.
More Tweets from Brooklyn:
dsaarinen: No newspapers available yet in #Brooklyn. Neighborhood man tells me: “They say that guy got killed last night.” I say, “Yes, I’ve heard.”
2:15 a.m. – On Franklin Ave. in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, there were no outright public displays of celebration late Sunday – but residents had plenty to say about the news.
Juan Ramon Baez, 42, a bodega manager:
“I’m not happy about anyone’s death but I think that his capture was long overdue. I don’t think he should’ve necessarily been killed but maybe put in prison. It almost always happens like that but if there was no other solution, what could be done?”
Manuel Gonzalez, 45, unemployed:
“I thought it took too long to kill him and I’m very happy. One less worry for the country.”
Danny Hernandez, 50, Construction worker
“I was happy when the first reports said he might have died because if someone damaged this country, they should pay for what they did.”
Dorisa, 66, Substitute teacher and counselor
“This is what the American federal government always does. Use people from foreign countries when they can and when they have no use for them, kill them. How is it that mankind is supposed to believe in God and kill in the name of war, when one of the commandments says ‘Thou shalt not kill?”
12:52 a.m. – More tweets on celebrations in Brooklyn!
12:21 a.m. – One of the tweets about spontaneous celebrations in Brooklyn EvilPRGuy: mini-street celebration is spontaneously happening in South #Brooklyn. Fireworks, cheering, beers, people outside. #BinLaden
12:11 a.m. – Tweets from Brooklyn talk about street celebrations and fireworks in the borough.
Watch the announcement by President Obama.
12:02 a.m. – Only a few minutes after President Obama announced the death of bin Laden, New Yorkers started to gather and celebrate. People from around the city are reportedly heading to Ground Zero.