There was no jubilant eruption in Abigail Carter’s Seattle home when she heard the news. While enjoying a dinner of grilled salmon and curried cauliflower with friends, her daughter Olivia screeched from her bedroom: “Mom! Osama bin Laden is dead! And everyone is celebrating. It’s so weird.” The 15-year-old couldn’t understand why people were so excited about a man’s death—even if the man in question was the mastermind behind the 9/11 plot that killed her dad, Arron Dack, a Toronto-raised vice-president of a financial software company.
In many ways, Olivia’s ambivalence is shared by family members of some of the 24 Canadians who lost their lives when the World Trade Center was attacked on Sept. 11, 2001. After nearly 10 years, they say they have pretty well forgotten about bin Laden, and don’t believe his death will curb the threat of terrorism. “We may have gotten the face of the organization,” says Abigail Cater, “but the organization continues. It also doesn’t change the fact that Arron is still dead.”
In Winnipeg, Ellen Judd was flipping between news channels in search of the latest on the federal election, when the news out of Abbottabad, Pakistan, broke. “I didn’t want to look at [the joyous crowds],” says Judd, still mourning the death of her partner Christine Egan, who was in the south tower visiting her brother when the planes hit. “If we celebrate this as a military victory, we’ve missed the point.” Bin Laden’s death heightened Judd’s sense of solidarity with everyone who has been touched by the war—especially those in Afghanistan and Pakistan. “I have much more in common with the widows in Afghanistan than I do with anybody celebrating in the streets today,” she says. “They are trying to live their ordinary lives just as Chris and I were trying to do.”
Erica Basnicki, the stepdaughter of Ken Basnicki, a Toronto businessman who was killed while attending a conference on the 106th floor of the north tower, blogged about bin Laden after receiving dozens of text messages and emails informing her that the world’s most wanted terrorist had been killed. “My first reaction wasn’t really to break into a celebration dance and I’m not sure why. I guess dancing about someone dying feels wrong…although I’d certainly consider an exception this time round.” In another blog post the morning after, she wrote, “I’ve heard many people speak about how the death of Osama bin Laden provides 9/11 families with some sense of justice. I have no sense of justice from his death.”
What would go a ways toward that end, says her brother Brennan, is the passage of the Justice for Victims of Terrorism bill, which their mother, Maureen—along with the Canadian Coalition Against Terror—has been trying to get through Parliament for the better part of the last decade. The bill would allow victims to sue terrorists and supporters of terrorism for damages. “The essence of the bill is that it’s difficult to fight terrorism through military action,” says Brennan. “But if you can cut off their financial capabilities, you can bankrupt terrorism.”
Abigail Carter also blogged about bin Laden’s killing, expressing wonder at “the sketchier parts of the story. Buried at sea? Seriously?” she wrote. “I wish [this] death could change things for me, but it doesn’t. Vengeance is a bitter pill that does little to cure any lack of justice.”