In their words: locals react to bin Laden's death

BY DI STAFF | MAY 03, 2011 7:20 AM

Ricky Bahner/The Daily Iowan
Iowa Visiting Assistant Professor Kofi Adragni gives an interview on Monday in Schaeffer Hall. Adragni described missing missed a train to New York City for a job interview because he overslept on Sept. 11, 2001. The train would have been under the World Trade Center when the terrorist attacks began.
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Cliff Wallace, 20, returned from Iraq three weeks ago and plans to enroll at the UI in the fall.

It's kind of like I'm dreaming, being back and all. It's only a been a few weeks, and I'm working on getting back to the everyday. I'm grateful. As far as bin Laden — I was in fifth grade when the Twin Towers went down. I don't think I could ever comprehend it, and I don't think anyone could unless they lived it or knew people that lived it.

But this is a huge deal. Obviously, it's great Osama's gone, but the Taliban's out there. The war's not over just because Osama's dead. Troops are dying every day. It's not over.

I think the wars had fallen out of peoples' minds. This brought them back. This is a huge step, but I think it's important for our men and women to remember to take things one day at a time.

Kofi Adragni, a visiting faculty member at UI from Togo, who has been in the United Sates for 10 years and teaches statistics

On Sept. 11, I was living in New Jersey. That morning I was supposed to go to an interview in New York City, and I was supposed to get on the train that would stop underneath the World Trade Centers. Luckily, I overslept — I would have probably been getting close to the towers, at least if I followed my initial timing, I probably would have been getting on a train going towards or getting underneath the towers around the time the thing happened. God — if I may say God — just helped me not to wake up in time and get on the road. And here I am today.

From where I was in New Jersey, you could see New York City. It was a mix of being upset and wondering what is really going on. It's just indescribable.

Personally — emotionally — I don't feel anything about the death of Osama bin Laden. Now, my question though, is: 'Is that making America any safer?' I don't think so. Killing one person, that's great for today. But I have to think that person basically creates a movement. He has followers and, taking the head out, maybe you have many, many heads that will continue the very thing bin Laden was doing. Maybe we are making things worse. I really hope that's not the case.

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Chris Myers, 50, Iowa City resident, daughter is a UI student

I was pissed off. I'm a fairly patriotic person. Actually, if I could have joined the service at the time, I probably would have, but I was a little too old. But it was just ridiculous. Hijacking a plane and crashing it into a building? What, right?

I'm happy they killed him instead of taking him alive so we don't have to go through the whole trial. I had just walked into my bedroom, and turned the TV on, and saw this headline of a special report that the president was going to speak to us. So I waited up. Initially, I thought it was going to have something to do with Qaddafi, but actually it turned out to be something better, really.

I was very happy. I used to own a company, and I used to throw Saddam Hussein-hater parties with my employees and the community that I lived in. So if I had still been in a position of owning my company, I probably would have thrown another big party.

It's the end of a decade of terrorism as far as his part of it. Obviously, there are crazy people in the world, and I'm sure there are other Osamas out there. I don't think too many people will last as long as him in this day and age and our technology and our ability to safeguard against it. You're always going to have nuts. There's not too much you can do about it.

I'm just very happy if I hadn't been already been ready to go to bed I would have went out and come joined the stud out here partying. That would have been something I would have done — in my younger days.

Maureen Miller, 52, from Oviedo, Fla. Her son, Staff Sgt. Robert Miller, died in Afghanistan Jan. 25, 2008. He was a UI student at the time.

I think he would have been happy to see the news. Whether [bin Laden] was captured or killed, he'd be happy to see him out of the picture. I can't say that it really affected us much. I was glad to see a conclusion to that aspect, but I realize bin Laden was just one person. It wasn't just him and one terrorist organization. It was the radical ideology.

Rob is always on my mind. If you talk to any parent who's lost a child, they'll tell you — you don't just put them in a box in your mind and take them out on occasion. He's constantly there for me. I have seven other kids. Rob was the second-oldest son and the first one to be in the Army. He studied English at the university and took some classes in Chinese and Arabic. He read extensively. He was always interested in military history; in the eighth grade, he was reading The Art of War. He didn't always have the grades to show it, but he was a good student.

I was nervous when he passed basic training, but I felt comfortable because I knew he was well trained.

Our faith helped us deal with fact that he had died. Even at that time, I knew of other families who had lost children. I watched others go through it and I guess over time I just learned to live with it.

We really appreciate all the work that's been done to reach this point in time. Rob was in the Army's branch of Special Forces, so I know those jobs are often a bit dangerous. Their efforts do not go unnoticed.

Amanda Wallace, 43, West Des Moines, Cliff Wallace's mother.

I'm very happy. I think it might have been something we weren't thinking about for so long, but it was such good news to hear. I remember when I turned on the TV last night and heard that the president had this big announcement, I thought it would be bad. I thought, 'Oh, no. He's got to go back. We just got him home.'

But it's such a day of happiness. I understand all the emotions with all those other families. I'd say they should stay positive and have a lot of prayer. Be proud of your child and be proud that they're doing what they're doing for all of us.

Ashley Poulter, 18, UI freshman, business major

I don't think it was right for everyone to be ecstatic, but I'm definitely happy that we found him. It's just nerve-racking to think of the repercussions for retaliation for what happened and everything like that.

It kind of hit me hard because my best friend's aunt was a flight attendant on one of the flights and her fiancé was on the plane, too, at that time. So it was kind of heartbreaking. Because I knew the family well, and they were planning on getting married a couple of months later … So every year, we kind of talk, because it is still a hard time for her. And I actually talked to her last night after the news. And her Facebook status was about her aunt. 'We miss you every day.' and stuff like that, but she was happy that it was all settled a little bit, and justice was served a little bit. Seeing her go through everything, I definitely don't think it would have been as real for me if I didn't know anyone that was affected.

I was relieved it showed that they're still trying, that they didn't give up and that they didn't forget about what happened, even though it was 10 years ago.

Nathan Warner, 21, from Pekin, Iowa. He's an Army medic in Afghanistan, and he is slated to return there today. He plans to enroll at the UI once his term ends this summer.

I know for me, personally, I'm really happy and relieved to hear the news. We've been fighting for a decade. It's not the whole reason we're over there, but this is one way to see the hard work that's been done for a decade.

I already talked to my buddies who are over there. We know the job's not done, and there are still a lot of trying times ahead of us. But if we keep getting these little victories, we'll get there.

My morale is up now, too. But as far as everything over there, only time will tell what kind of impact this will have. Time will tell. It could be worse. It could be better. But we're going to keep doing our jobs.

I want thank everybody who's out there and works hard. This was a bit of an eye-opener. I want to thank everyone who made it happen.

Leo Baier, 81, director of Johnson County Veterans Affairs, a Marine during the Korean War

I think it's a great thing for humanity. I'm sure it's hope for the National Guard — hope that they'll be able to come home as soon as possible.

It doesn't sound right that you'd be glad someone's killed, but this guy was such an evil person; I was afraid he'd never be taken out. I stayed up very late to watch the news with my wife. Al Qaeda is something that's been worrying me, and this brings about a joy that's shared by millions.

I suspect Al Qaeda will still be around, but my hope is that this will quiet things down. The fear this man raised was incredible. It was unfortunate that so many had to suffer through it. I think what's been shown here is that our men and women can persevere.

Col. Greg Hapgood, 46, Iowa National Guard, deployed in Iraq

Certainly, it's a historic moment for Americans, but it's important that focus isn't lost. We have about 3,000 people from the Iowa National Guard in Afghanistan right now. It's extremely important that they focus on the mission at hand and remain vigilant. They wear a lot of different hats over there, but one of their main jobs is to assist the Afghan people and bring democracy to the area.

The soldiers of the Iowa National Guard are at a very pivotal point in their country's history. It's important that they know this one event could change conditions for better or for worse. They should stay focused on their mission so they can come home safe to their families.

It's important that the sacrifices of these men and women never go unrecognized and their fight is never forgotten.

Rachel Stewart, webmaster in Tippie College of Business

I was here in the college on Sept. 11, working on the other side of the building … I was sitting in [the staff lounge] when the second tower fell. I was talking to somebody earlier today. We should feel too happy about somebody being killed. Then you think about the families and how they think about it, the families who were directly affected by him. I'm worried about what others are going to pull now because of this. I think I can't feel like the people who were dancing outside the White House. I don't think I could have joined them. I feel too uncertain about what's going to go on now because of what's happened.

My sister and brother-in-law worked in Manhattan at the time, and he still does, but they were in different parts of lower Manhattan so I couldn't reach them, I couldn't call them. I knew they weren't close to the towers, but I was trying to reach her all day …

I haven't really given it much more thought today. It's just sort of surprised me. I may go online later and see what other people are saying about it. It makes me nervous.

Matt McGinnis, 19, UI sophomore, Tinley Park, Ill.

I had just woken up. Our school didn't start until 9 o'clock that day. The attacks started at 8, I think. [7:46 a.m. Central Time] So I had just woken up, and I was getting ready to go to school, and I remember my dad telling me to turn on the TV. I turned on the TV … I remember they kept saying, 'Terrorism, terrorism, terrorism,' and I really didn't know what terrorism was then so finally I just went to school. … And the teachers, I think they were nervous. I don't think they knew how to react because some of them had the TV on, and some thought we weren't old enough so they turned the TVs off. A few of the teachers started bickering about whether we should or shouldn't watch it, so I remember being really confused. That's what I remember most.

I had just left the library and went to Airliner to get something to eat, and we were just at a friend's house playing some video games. And one of her roommates came from downstairs and knocked on the door and said 'Hey guys, did you hear what happened?'…

So we paused the game and switched over, and by the time we found the channel, Obama was just beginning his speech. So we got to listen to the speech, and I don't think we ever finished that game …

Do I think there's closure? No, not necessarily, because I think we all know that bin Laden doesn't end terrorism. It's just a step. But I think it's a step in the right direction, maybe the beginning of the end. It could take 10 years, it could take one. It's maybe the beginning of closure.

Our generation, we have two lives, pre-9/11 and post 9/11, and I think this could be a start. I don't know post-terrorism.

Adam Connell, 24, UI freshman in the Navy Reserve. Part of a search team that supplied support to soldiers fighting against the Taliban.

[Sunday] night I was walking out of chemistry tutoring around 9:30, and my brother calls me. He kept saying, 'Did you hear the news?' And I'm like, 'What news?' He said, "We got him. We got bin Laden.' He was elated, and I was overwhelmed with happiness.

It is just a normal day, but it has that extra kick to it. It's one of those days that will go down in history. I know I'll be able to tell where I was, what I was wearing even for years to come. It's definitely exciting for us; it's a boost of morale and all the hard work has paid off. Obama said in his speech, "Justice has been served," but this would have never happened without the men and women over there now.

I'm thankful for those guys over there every day. I can sit in lecture, I can read my textbook or listen to my iPod and not have to worry about things. Those we've lost, I'd definitely say they gave it their all and made the ultimate sacrifice. There's no way to express the gratitude in any language that I know of. I've tried, but how do you say thank you? We can try our damnedest, but you can't.

Richard Connell, 55, Council Bluffs. Adam Connell's father. Has one son, Brian, currently serving in Afghanistan. Another son, Ben, returned home from Afghanistan on a medical discharge three weeks ago after an improvised explosion device left him with numerous injuries, including broken legs.

All our kids are in the military in one way or another. We have two in the Army and two in the Navy. The first one went in about 12 years ago. It's been a bit like 'follow the leader and give mom and dad gray hair.' For the last six years, we've had kids in Iraq or Afghanistan. We worry about them but know this is what they have to do. We saw perseverance [Sunday] and just another bit of justice for the work that they do.

When Ben came home, we were happy to have him, but not under those circumstances. But he's ready to get back in the fight and I think to tell him, 'Slow down.' There's still concern he has because he still has another brother [Brian, 30] there. We don't hear from him much. He operates in the intelligence field. The last time I heard from him was two weeks ago. I told him to keep up the fight, stay safe, and take care of the guys he's with. I know we're with his thoughts and prayers.

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