On Sunday night, the phone rang at the Palmer house in Valley Stream. It was a family member, telling Debbie and Dana Palmer to turn on the news. They did, and for 45 minutes they sat in front of the television, learning that Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, had been killed.
Nearly 10 years ago, Orio Palmer was a battalion chief with the New York City Fire Department, and was helping to rescue people from the south tower of the World Trade Center. He and a team of firefighters reached the 78th floor before the tower collapsed.
“When we heard the news, it was bittersweet,” his daughter, Dana, 23, said of bin Laden’s death. “While we’re glad justice is done, it was at a really high cost. Good news is short-lived when it really doesn’t change anything.”
Palmer’s widow, Debbie, and Dana watched President Obama’s speech together. They spoke with the other two Palmer children by phone — son Keith, who is in Italy, and daughter Alyssa, who is away at college.
Ed Thompson, whose son Glenn was killed in the attacks, said he was glad to hear the U.S. had killed bin Laden, but it was emotional news. “I still feel the grief,” he said.
Thompson said that in his eulogy for his son in 2001, he spoke of the importance of not blaming one country or one religion for what happened. “You can’t condemn a group of people,” he said. “There are good and bad in everything.”
He was watching television Sunday night when he heard that the president was going to speak, but he didn’t know about what. Thompson watched as the president announced bin Laden’s killing, and stayed up watching the news until about 1 a.m., then spent Monday morning reading newspaper stories about it.
Vito Friscia, a now-retired New York Police Department detective, was just a block away from the World Trade Center when the north tower collapsed. He spent several months helping dig through the rubble, and was the subject of a documentary, “Vito After,” about health issues 9/11 workers have dealt with.
“It was great news,” said the Valley Stream father of two about bin Laden’s killing. “I just can’t believe they finally got him.”
Friscia said he found out from his mother, who called him at home and told him to turn on the news. He said the U.S. military should be proud, and he hopes this “cuts the head off” Al Qaeda.
There will never be true closure for Friscia, however. “It’s just one piece of the puzzle that’s taken care of,” he said. “There were a lot of other people involved.” Still, he added, “It was a good moment for America.”
Assemblyman Ed Ra said this should serve as a reminder that Americans are united against intolerable acts. “The death of Osama bin Laden signifies a historic day for America and the people of this great country,” he said, “and represents a major victory in our country’s efforts to defeat terrorism here and abroad.”
Ron Feltington, president of American Legion Post 854 in Valley Stream, worked at ground zero for eight months after the attacks. He said that watching all the spontaneous celebrations around the country on Sunday night was heartwarming. People gathered to say the Pledge of Allegiance, sing “God Bless America” or chant “U-S-A!”
It reminded Feltington of the spirit of unity immediately after the terrorist attacks — which soon dissipated. He said hopes that doesn’t happen this time. “Everybody’s together again,” he said. “I wish that would be how we felt about each other all the time.”