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Families of 9/11: 'Bogeyman can't come out of the closet'

/ Source: msnbc.com

The death of Osama bin Laden at the hands of American forces might bring a measure of justice, the families of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks said, but as one noted: "There's no such thing as closure."

"It still doesn't make it all better. It just brings you peace knowing the bogeyman can't come out of the closet anymore," said Ashley Gilligan, 27, who was a senior in high school when her father, Ronald, died in the World Trade Center. His remains were never found. He was a database manager at the trading firm Cantor Fitzgerald.

When she heard the news about bin Laden, "I had a great mixture of emotions. I'm clearly relieved that he's gone. But also I'm very sad at the same time because it's a reminder of the emotions I experienced when my Dad first died."

Ashley Gilligan reflects on the death of Osama bin Laden at NBC Studios in New York on Monday, May 2, 2011, after losing her father, Ronald Gilligan, in the 9-11 terrorist attacks on 2001. (Jonathan D. Woods/msnbc.com)Jonathan D. Woods

A Connecticut man who lost his son, daughter-in-law and 2 1/2 year-old granddaughter — the youngest victim of the attacks — said bin Laden's death was a validation of U.S. resolve.

"It's taken a while to do it, but we've done it," said Lee Hanson, 78, of Easton, Conn. "It's a really good thing to get out there — if you fool around with the U.S., you will be caught."

Hanson and his wife, Eunice, 75, lost their 32-year-old son, Peter, his wife, Sue, 34, and their toddler daughter, Christine, when the second plane hit the World Trade Center.

However, Hanson warned that bin Laden's death doesn't end the threat of terrorism in the U.S. or abroad.

"Many segments will try to avenge this," he said, adding: "There's still a great danger there."

President Barack Obama's announcement of the death pleased Hanson because bin Laden was finally "punished for his crimes," he said.

But it doesn't change the loss for the families left behind.

"There's no such thing as closure," he told msnbc.com.

Other family members said the sudden news of bin Laden's death Sunday reawakened old feelings.

"I just started shaking. It just kind of brings things back," said Carole O'Hare, 58, whose 79-year-old mother, Hilda Marcin, died in the crash of Flight 93. "It's just like an open wound."

Marcin, who had recently retired, was moving to Danville, Calif., to live with O'Hare and her husband.

"Our lives changed so much," O'Hare recalled. "Everything is either before or after 9/11."

Still families are reacting with a muted joy to the death of the man who orchestrated so much grief.

Charles G. Wolf, whose wife, Katherine, died at the World Trade Center, says he feels "happiness — but not jump-up-and-down happiness."

He says that closure doesn't really exist for him.

Larry Catuzzi of Houston lost his 38-year-old daughter, Lauren Grandcolas, and her unborn child on United Flight 93. He wasn't jubilant when he heard the news, but said bin Laden's death gives him "comfort and relief" after years of uncertainty.

"I certainly couldn't imagine with all our resources that we couldn't track this guy down," he said. "It was like a murderer walking in your neighborhood."

He praised the perserverance of the Bush and Obama administrations in hunting down bin Laden.

Catherine Esposito came to ground zero Monday morning to honor the memory of her firefighter brother, Frankie Esposito. She says visiting the site is the closest she can come to visiting his grave, since his remains were never found.

She says bin Laden's death makes her feel a little better. She believes that extremists are now as upset as she was on 9/11.

Bonnie McEneaney, 57, wife of Eamon McEneaney, who died in the 9/11 attacks, reacted to the news by phone from her home in New Canaan, Conn.

"It doesn't bring back all the wonderful people who were killed 10 years ago. It's long overdue."

Eamon McEneaney worked at the securities firm Cantor Fitzgerald at the World Trade Center, where he died at age 46. He was a survivor of the 1993 bombing of the center, where he was credited with saving the lives of 65 employees by organizing a human chain to lead them downstairs through choking smoke and debris.

McEneaney, who is a member of the group "Voices of Sept. 11," said she was not notified in advance about the death of Osama bin Laden. Instead, she was notified by a neighbor about the president's upcoming address.

"I'm completely numb. I'm stunned," she told msnbc.com.

'Justice was done'
Outside the White House in Washington early Monday, a crowd of thousands gathered, waving U.S. flags, chanting “USA,” singing the national anthem and a tune familiar to sports fans — "na, na, na, na, hey, hey, good-bye."

In the crowd was Monica Lawson, whose sister Cecelia Lawson Richards died on 9/11 in the Pentagon.

Lawson said she was watching TV with her daughter Courtney — the victim's niece — when she heard the news. They left their suburban D.C. home and carried a large portrait of Cecelia to the gates of the White House.

"I was like, what? Then it started to sink in," Courtney said. "I'm happy. Justice was done. But there is more work to do."

The patriotic response in Washington, D.C., and across the country heartened Susan Rescorla, 69, of Mendham, N.J., who lost her husband, Rick Rescorla, in the collapse of the second tower at the World Trade Center.

"I just kept saying, 'Thank you, God; thank you God; thank you God," she said. "It's done and he's dead."

After the president's announcement, reactions poured in on Twitter and Facebook.

"Bin Laden dead. My dad died on 911. I feel free," tweeted one woman.

Others used Twitter to ask for a moment of silence in honor of the victims of Sept. 11.

On Facebook, users changed their profile pictures.

"Change your profile picture to an American flag in honor and recognition of our soldiers who took down Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan! Finally the great terrorist mastermind is dead. God bless the USA," said one user.

'I'm not going to judge him'
But Jack Lynch, who lost his son, 30-year-old New York City firefighter Michael Francis Lynch, on Sept. 11, 2001, was circumspect.

"The first thought I had in my mind was that it didn't bring my son back," said Lynch. "You cut the head off a snake, you'd think it would kill the snake. But someone will take his place. People like him still exist. The fact that he's gone is not going to stop terrorism."

Lynch, 75, is a retired transit worker. His family's charity, the Michael Lynch Memorial Foundation, has made grants to send dozens of students to college. He said he would not celebrate bin Laden's death.

"I understand that bin Laden was an evil person. He may have believed in what he was doing. I'm not going to judge him," Lynch said. "I'm sure some people will look at this and they'll be gratified that he's dead, but me personally, I'm going to leave his fate in God's hands."

Msnbc.com reporters Bill Dedman and Bob Sullivan and The Associated Press contributed to this report.