Tears and omens: LIers on bin Laden news

A file photo of Sally Regenhard holding a A file photo of Sally Regenhard holding a photo of her firefighter son, Christian Regenhard. (Jan. 13, 2003) Photo Credit: NEWSDAY/Jiro Ose

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Lenny Crisci of Holbrook said he didn't know about Osama bin Laden's death until he saw the headlines in the newspapers when he went to get coffee at a deli early Monday morning.

"I just started crying," he said. "I picked up Newsday and started crying. I sat in my car and just cried."

Crisci said he often gets small omens he believes are from his brother, John, 48, an FDNY lieutenant assigned to the hazardous materials unit based in Maspeth, Queens, who was killed Sept. 11.

He said he had such an omen Monday morning. When he got in the car to go to the deli, the trip odometer read 1911. "It's like someone was reaching out to me," he said.

Just as he did when the towers were struck almost 10 years ago, Crisci said he felt compelled to visit Ground Zero Monday. As soon the towers were attacked, Crisci, a former NYPD detective who now runs a security firm in Manhattan, ran to the site.

Monday, he said he was again drawn to it. "I had to go there," he said. And he said he couldn't stop crying. "I've shed more tears today than on Sept. 11," he said.

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"I think I'm going to sleep better tonight. I think America is safer," he said.

Roxanne Green of Westbury has been glued to the television set since Sunday night when news broke that bin Laden was killed.

"I was just amazed and kept on watching TV. Some tears did come to my eyes -- tears of joy," said Green, who lost her husband, Wade Brian Green, 42, a field service representative for Thomson Financial in the 9/11 attacks. "I just feel that we have a criminal who was at large for so long. It makes me feel better only because he's no longer in existence."

The couple's daughter, an eighth-grader, was up Sunday night to listen to President Barack Obama's address to the nation.

"I said to her, 'bin Laden is dead,' " said Green, 51. "She looked at me and smiled."

When Jim and Denise Smagala of Commack woke up Monday, they showed their 13-year-old son the front page of Newsday.

"This is the man responsible for killing your uncle and he was killed yesterday [Sunday]," they told their son, Michael. "He's no longer around to hurt people anymore."

The couple's older son, John, 17, learned of the news Sunday night, the same time his parents did. "Good," John said when he heard that bin Laden was dead.

The boys' uncle, Stanley Smagala Jr., 36, a New York City firefighter who lived with them for a time, was killed on Sept. 11, 2001.

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Jim Smagala, a retired city firefighter, survived the attacks on the World Trade Center, getting out of north tower a minute before the building collapsed.

"The killing of one man that is responsible for the death of thousands is not exactly what I would call justice," said Smagala, who retired in 2002. "There is, however, a great sense of satisfaction and closure that comes from the knowledge that he [Osama bin Laden] has been eliminated from this earth. Justice will only come at the hand of God now."

Cecil Burke said he was watching "Celebrity Apprentice" Sunday night on TV when news about Osama Bin Laden's death broke. He immediately got a text message from his niece in New Jersey.

She had the same reaction he did: "I want to see proof," the niece, Tamara Rose-Waye, texted him. Her aunt, and Burke's sister, Dorothy Morgan, 47, who lived in Hempstead and worked at Marsh & McLennan, was killed on Sept. 11.

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Burke texted her back, saying that he agreed: He too wanted confirmation. "Was this crazy person dead? They are telling me 100 percent it is him. How do we know that?" he said.

He said he went to bed late and awoke Monday with a mix of emotions. "I feel justice has been served, but it's not going to bring my sister back," he said. "Now we also have to worry about retaliation."

One thing is certain, Burke said: He is going to go to Ground Zero, which he has never visited, for the 10th anniversary. He had planned to go this year, but he said with bin Laden's death, he now has even more reason to visit. "I will make it my business to be down there," he said.


Michele Bergsohn of Baldwin Harbor was fast asleep when her younger son, Harris, 21, raced into her room to tell her the news that Osama bin Laden was dead. Her older son, Sam, 23, called soon after. While Harris' feelings were "confused," Sam said he was thrilled. As for her: "My first response was to cry."

Monday, Bergsohn, who is Jewish, said she awoke with a sense of the historical and religious significance of the day. It was May 1, 1945, that the Allies announced Adolf Hitler was dead. And Sunday was also the Jewish holiday Yom Hashoah, which is observed in remembrance of the 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust. "For it to occur like this was a little overwhelming," she said.

Monday was also a day that her son Harris, who usually avoids going to the cemetery, decided to visit his father's grave with a friend. Alvin, 48, worked at Cantor Fitzgerald and was killed in the attacks.

Bergsohn admitted to having mixed feelings. Gone, she said, was the "averageness" of that Monday. Instead, she was inundated with calls and reminders of her loss. "Sometimes you want average," she said. "It's the memories; it's the memories."


Christine Anchundia of Syosset stayed home from work Monday and she and her husband, Elias Anchundia, visited Tobay Beach Memorial to remember their son, Joseph. He was a vice president in the equities department at Sandler O'Neill, who waskilled on 9/11. He and his best friend, Judson Cavalier were working on the 104th floor of the South Tower when the attacks took place. His remains were never found.

"Even though it brings great satisfaction and we waited for this day for 10 years, it does not bring us closure," said Christine Anchundia, 64, a medical secretary. "However, we are grateful and we realized that justice has been done."

The couple learned of the news when they woke up Monday morning and called their daughter, Elizabeth Castellano, 33, of Melville, who was reading the newspapers.

"It's not going to take away our pain, but there is sense of satisfaction," said Elias Anchundia, 65. "I think today was the day the world found out that we as a country that will not give up."

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