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For 9/11 kin, a step closer to healing

Capt. Pat Brown and Sharon Watts

Capt. Pat Brown and Sharon Watts Photo Credit: photo courtesy of Sharon Watts

At, first, Sharon Watts, 58, thought the friend who called her Sunday night was telling her “Obama” had been killed.

Then, the Beacon, N.Y., artist realized that the man who murdered her former fiancée, FDNY Capt. Pat Brown, along with thousands of others, had been fatally shot in Pakistan, almost 10 years after the country’s most catastrophic terrorist attack.

“I’m the kind of person who saves flies. I believe violence begets violence,” marveled Watts. It seemed somehow unseemly to jubilate over anyone’s death. But she noted, “this needed to be done and I’m glad it happened on (President Barack) Obama’s watch.”

Watts already had handled her grief by writing a book, “Miss You, Pat.” Yet, she felt a surge of “quiet gratification” to know her loved one’s murderer was dead. And she couldn’t help but smile to think how Brown - a yoga practitioner and former Marine - would have appreciated the tactical elegance of the targeted military maneuver that resulted in no loss of civilian life.

Not everyone shared her measured response or admiration of the president. Many victims’ families were distraught that the terrorist’s body already had received a burial at sea, in accordance with Islamic tradition. Some, like E. Betzy Parks, of Bayonne, N.J., who lost her brother, Robert Parks Jr., a Cantor Fitzgerald bond trader, were celebrating, while continuing to find fault with Obama.

Bin Laden’s body “should have been put on top of the Fresh Kills garbage dump,” said Maureen Santora of Astoria, who lost her son, FDNY firefighter Christopher Santora, 23, on September 11. About 41% of the victims of the World Trade Center attacks were never identified, with some relatives believing that their remains are commingled with trash.

“I’ve dreamt of 7.62 justice ever since 9/11/2001,” said John Vigiano of Long Island who lost two sons -- FDNY firefighter John Vigiano, 36, and NYPD detective Joe Vigiano, 34 -- in the attacks. “7.62” said Vigiano, a retired FDNY Captain and former Marine, “is the millimeter round of the M-4 carbine.” He was heartened, however, to see “justice has been served.”

The savagery and massive scope of the unprovoked attacks awakened our atavistic impulses, noted Dr. Martin Evers, a Katonah psychiatrist who has treated family members of 9/11 victims. Even pacifists and opponents of the death penalty find it hard “to be entirely philosophically and morally consistent” in the face of such unifying atrocities, he noted, adding that both survivors and most opponents of terrorists see the tyrant’s death “as a collective win.”

Most survivors already have found some closure following the death of their loved ones, and weren’t conditioning their healing on bin Laden’s capture or death. Still, said Evers, bin Laden’s death is a “long delayed element of closure for a historic and egregious wrong that has now been righted to some imperfect extent.”



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