Death of Osama bin Laden: Gilroyans weigh in

Janay Ailes said she was "almost kind of numb," following the

As reports hailing Osama bin Laden’s death continue to pour in,
ensuing emotions run the gamut from reflective to happy, somber to
cautious for a handful of locals whose personal lives were directly
affected by 9/11. Full article
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As reports hailing Osama bin Laden’s death continue to pour in, ensuing emotions run the gamut from reflective to happy, somber to cautious for a handful of locals whose personal lives were directly affected by 9/11.

“It feels like a lot of people expected me to be like, ‘Yes. Closure. He’s dead,’ ” said Janay Ailes, 29, who grew up in Gilroy and lost her 22-year-old brother, Lance Cpl. Jeramy Ailes to enemy action in Iraq in 2004.

“I don’t feel that,” she countered. “I’m almost kind of numb.”

In light of a 40-minute raid Sunday when a small U.S. team assaulted a compound in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad and shot bin Laden in the head, Ailes said large-scale public celebrations erupting in Washington D.C. and New York were unsettling for her.

She agrees bin Laden was a “horrible man” and that his death was “justified,” but doesn’t agree with how the news was publicized or received.

It sends the wrong message that “killing is OK,” she said.

“The mastermind is no longer a threat, but I don’t think it means that the war is over and we can move on,” she said Monday over the phone. “In a way I feel Osama’s death is anticlimactic. What changes? Osama’s death is never going to restore what our country lost.”

Seeing revelers approach the occasion as a jubilant “opportunity to party,” she added, was a form of reaction she could not resonate with.

Among the raucous crowds flocking to the White House in Washington D.C. was Montina Filice, a 19-year-old college sophomore from Gilroy studying business and marketing at Georgetown University. She left campus via cab at 11:30 p.m. Sunday.

The streets were inundated with pedestrians, she said, and “wall-to-wall” masses of people flooded the back of the White House while the front remained quiet and dark.

Filice remained at the White House until 1 a.m. amidst a “crazy” scene. She said thousands of people were yelling, shouting, chanting, singing the National Anthem, taking pictures and video, climbing up trees and lampposts, driving in cars and honking.

What strikes her memory vividly, though, is the number of stars and stripes coloring the night.

“I didn’t even know that many people owned an American flag,” she mused. “Everyone was walking around with an American flag.”

Filice feels celebrations were meant to champion hard-won justice for 9/11 victims and commemorate a “landmark” move in the war against al-Qaida.

Sunday evening wasn’t a celebration of death, so much as it was a celebration of accomplishment, she said.

“It’s a victory for the U.S., and it’s definitely something we’ve all been growing up with over the years.”

Gilroy native Paula Orosco, whose son Specialist Rodney Garcia, 20, of the 82nd Airborne Division will be re-deployed August 2011 for another tour of duty in Afghanistan, agrees the event is a victory – but is wary of ensuing retaliation and what it could mean for her son.

“Is it going to bring more casualty?” she asked. “Is it going to inspire more war?”

Living on “the edge” in fear of revenge and new dangers arising for troops who might have to “suffer and stay longer” is a factor that keeps her grounded in reality.

“It hasn’t really ended yet,” she said, reflecting on the uncertainties Garcia faces as a serviceman. “It’s overwhelming, knowing my son is going back.”

Orosco acknowledged people will express themselves differently, but said she’s torn.

Her feelings on capturing “the worst enemy against us” are conflicted by what it means for active duty troops.

These concerns were echoed by Susie Montgomery, a San Martin resident who works in Hollister.

Montgomery’s 28-year-old daughter, Melina Montgomery, is stationed in Afghanistan. Her 26-year-old son, Alan Jr., has completed a tour of Iraq and is stationed in Washington State.

“It’s bittersweet,” said Susie, who empathized with those who found bin Laden’s death as cause for celebration, but said she fears retaliation.

Dale Foster, Gilroy Fire Department fire chief, outlined a similar batch of mixed feelings.

The fact bin Laden will no longer be around to create “issues” and “misery” for the rest of the free world is the upside, he said.

“But what’s the potential reaction from those that follow him?” Foster asked. “Will that create another whole wave of martyrdom?”

Still, for a widow and mother who buried her husband, Staff Sgt. David H. Gutierrez in January 2010 at Gavilan Hills Memorial Park in north Gilroy, emotions are hard to suppress.

“I hate to say it … I never thought I would be so happy to hear that someone died,” said Patty Gutierrez, 38, whose three sons Andrew, 13; Jeremiah, 7; and Gabriel, 5; lost their father Christmas Day 2009 in Afghanistan to a hidden roadside bomb while on patrol.

On Sunday, the mother of three had to explain to her boys why she was so happy.

“He was the cause of the reason their father was killed.”

While she recognizes the fight wasn’t over, the death of bin Laden – “the hardest man to find” – gives her a little bit of peace.

Gutierrez knows nothing will bring her husband back, but said she doesn’t dwell on what she can’t control. She said she feels a sense of closure; as if her husband didn’t die in vain.

“I still talk about him like he’s still here … I catch myself a lot,” said Gutierrez, who affectionately referred to her husband in present tense over the phone Monday.

Before she picked her boys up from school that afternoon, Gutierrez said she was planning to visit her husband’s resting place.

“I can breathe again, smile and move forward. I’m happy about it.”

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