Bin Laden's death rekindles memories

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 3, 2011

By Shavonne Potts
SALISBURY — Sandra Francis is filled with a mix of emotions.
Elation gives way to sadness as she mulls over the news that terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden was dead. Her memories took her back to Oct. 12, 2000, the day her daughter, Lakeina, was among the sailors killed in an attack on the USS Cole.
Francis watched as President Barack Obama announced Sunday that the al-Qaida leader was killed at a compound in Pakistan.
“It was a bittersweet moment. I went into mother-mode and I cried like I did Oct. 12. It put my heart back there,” Francis said.
Francis, her husband, Ronald, and others in the “USS Cole family” met with Obama and others who’d lost family members to terrorism and he made them a promise.
“He said he would get Osama. He didn’t say when, but he did give us his guarantee,” Francis said.
She spoke with other USS Cole families, and said, “They are very happy.”
Military prosecutors refiled terrorism and murder charges Wednesday against Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the suspected coordinator of the USS Cole bombing. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announced in November 2009 that al-Nashiri and other detainees, would be tried by a military commission. But in August of last year, prosecution was stalled again.
Francis is also glad that it was a Navy SEAL team that was responsible for killing bin Laden.
She believes her daughter received justice, but for her and her family, there will never be closure.
Next month, Francis’ daughter would have celebrated her 30th birthday.
“I have justice and I have pride. I can truly say for the first time in my heart it’s going to be so special,” she said.
Francis said she’s honored to be a gold star mom, which is an organization of mother’s who have lost children in service to the country.
She is thankful for the continued prayers and support from the community, family, friends and even strangers throughout the state.
“Their prayers and love is what got us through this,” she said.
Gary Foster, commander of American Legion Post 3006, hopes bin Laden’s death can bring closure to others.
“Perhaps his death will bring closure to the families of thousands of American citizens he’s been indirectly or directly responsible for their deaths,” Foster said.
Foster, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Vietnam War, said he’d much rather bin Laden would have stood trial for the atrocities and deaths he caused.
“I can’t say that I’m glad he’s dead, because the taking of a life is something no one should be happy about,” he said.
Edward Smith, who served 11 years in the Army and Navy, spending part of that time in Beirut and Iraq, believes there will never be closure.
Bin Laden’s death helps but doesn’t take away the grief people feel over soldiers who have died.
“At the same time that same person (bin Laden) will never be able to hurt anybody,” he said.
Smith also believes that “There will be others who will try to take his place, but it’s not going to happen.”
Smith still has friends serving in the military.
“It closes one chapter, but also starts another,” Smith said.
Harry Miller who served 20 years in the Navy thinks it was long past time for the U.S. to capture or kill bin Laden.
“It’s about time and they should get the rest, including the folks that bombed the USS Cole,” Miller said.
Amanda Atkinson was several thousand feet in the air when news began circulating about bin Laden’s death.
Atkinson, a Salisbury native who now resides in London, said via Facebook that as the plane landed everyone got out their phones.
“The New Yorkers among us seemed to be especially affected, saying things like, ‘I can’t believe I’m not in Manhattan for this historic moment,’ ” Atkinson wrote.
She said life in London was routine, but the death was front-page news.
“It’s nowhere near as poignant here as in the U.S. The impression in the U.K. seems to be that it’s more of a symbolic victory,” she said.
Atkinson believes only time will tell if “anything changes in terms of the level of aggression and frequency of terrorist attacks against the West as a result of bin Laden’s death.”
Former Salisbury resident Matthew Leatherman said the death was welcome news.
“As an American, this is someone who shaped history for the past 20 years. It’s good to see justice and progress,” Leatherman said.
Leatherman is a research analyst with the Stimson Center’s project on budgeting for foreign affairs and defense.
The Obama administration is preparing to conduct a review of the Afghanistan war strategy.
It’s a review that was scheduled 18 months ago to look at withdrawing troops.
“Early news reporting suggested this was going to be a cursory review, but with him being dead, people are going to ask bigger questions,” Leatherman said.
He added people will likely ask less about tactics and more about the principle behind the killing.
Leatherman also pointed to the fact that bin Laden was captured in Pakistan not far from a military training center.
“It gives a strong implication he was being sheltered,” he said.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.