Chicago Tribune: From quiet relief to open rejoicing

Chicago-area reactions — some muted, some jubilant — run the gamut

A day after cellphones and Twitter feeds filled with fast-breaking reports of Osama bin Laden‘s death, Chicago-area residents spent Monday reflecting on news they had waited nearly 10 years to hear.

On the platform of the Des Plaines Metra station, John Newman emptied his pocket of quarters to feed the nearby newspaper box and grab some paper-and-ink tokens of the historic moment.

“It took a long time (to find him), but they did and I’m relieved,” Newman said. “Everyone is excited.”

Count among that number Mazen Asbahi, a Muslim attorney and father of three from La Grange who expressed joy that “someone who had brought tremendous ugliness to my faith is now gone and that the families of 9/11 … could find some measure of relief and justice.”

“Osama bin Laden’s death marks the end of a dark chapter in American history and in the history of Islam,” Asbahi said.

In Joliet, patriotic songs including Ray Charles‘ version of “America the Beautiful” blasted from the speakers of Silver Cross Field, where the new Slammers baseball team is gearing up to start their inaugural season later this month.

“If there was ever a day to feel patriotic, it was today,” said Sarah H. Eichenberger, Slammers’ marketing and public relations director.

The enormity of the news that bin Laden had been killed left Wheaton College graduate student Meghan Cahill wrestling with her emotions Monday.

“I don’t know what my opinion is,” the 26-year-old said. “But it is important to sit in the tension of everything and think of what this means.”

Many in Naperville Central High School teacher Donna Mohn’s sophomore American Government class were too young in September 2001 to grasp the meaning of the tragedy. On Monday, she took them to the city’s memorial commemorating the life of Navy Cmdr. Dan Shanower, a former Naperville resident who was killed when a hijacked plane crashed into the Pentagon.

Quoting from the Pledge of Allegiance, Mohn asked her students if they thought bin Laden’s death could unite the country as “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Reached later by telephone, student Matt Dunphey, 16, said he remembered seeing his father and grandmother watching TV after the Sept. 11 attacks.

“I didn’t really understand what happened. I didn’t get the magnitude of events,” said Dunphey.

Like a number of Chicago-area politicians, Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel thanked those who contributed to bin Laden’s demise.

“A lot of people’s lives were lost along the way to get to this point,” Emanuel said. “They have to be remembered. They have to be recognized.”

Amina Sharif, spokeswoman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Chicago, sought to distance Islam from bin Laden during a news conference Monday.

“Bin Laden never represented Islam and was never seen as a Muslim leader,” Sharif said.

As anticipated as the news was, many still found themselves in disbelief when it came. Dave Montee, commander of American Legion Post 615 in Tinley Park, said he had lost hope that bin Laden would be captured or killed by the United States.

“It was something that I never thought would happen,” he said. “I thought the fella would die of natural causes and we would never really know if we got him.”

Bin Laden’s death proves America’s resolve, said Tom Alderson, soon to be commander of Schaumburg VFW Post 2202.

“We finally brought someone to justice who richly deserved what they got,” Alderson said.

Tribune reporters Kristen Mack, Jennifer Delgado, Jenn Zimmerman, Mary Owen, Ashley Rueff and Kate Thayer contributed.