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Families of victims torn over news

  • People with local ties killed in Obama bin Laden’s terrorist attack on 9/11:

Stuart Ho finally found a semblance of closure yesterday with the news that Navy SEALs had tracked down and killed the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks that killed his daughter, Heather Ho.

“We’re certainly happy that the president and the armed forces have done what they’ve done,” Ho said. “It helps to bring some closure here.”

But some of the other families of the five Hawaii people — and four others with island ties — who died nearly 10 years ago in the terrorist attacks in New York, the Washington, D.C., area and Pennsylvania continued to struggle with their emotions.

Alex Lee, 39, the younger brother of Rich Y.C. Lee, and their mother, Susan Yoshinaka, a retired Kalihi Elementary School principal, were conflicted by the news that U.S. special forces had killed Osama bin Laden.

Yoshinaka, 70, is “having mixed feelings that her son’s murderer is gone and can’t hurt anyone else,” Alex Lee said. “She’s also Catholic and doesn’t want to see anyone hurt. We’re all kind of struggling with the issue: Did we have to get to this point for people to understand that America’s not backing down? Or is it just vengeance for vengeance’s sake? I go back and forth.”

The reactions to bin Laden’s death from some of the families who lost loved ones with Hawaii ties on Sept. 11, 2001, are as unique as the people who are gone.

Christine Snyder, 32, of Kailua was an arborist for The Outdoor Circle and had just gotten married three months before the terrorist attacks. Snyder was aboard United Airlines Flight 93 when it was hijacked by four al-Qaida terrorists and crashed in a field in Pennsylvania after passengers and crew fought back against their captors. Snyder was returning home after attending the American Forestry Conference in Washington, D.C., and visiting New York City for the first time.

Georgine Rose Corrigan was a 55-year-old antique dealer aboard United Airlines Flight 93 when the passengers and crew fought back against their al-Qaida hijackers and forced the plane to crash into a Pennsylvania field.

Her daughter, Laura Brough of Hawaii Kai, was still unsettled by the news of bin Laden’s death.

“It has taken nine and a half years and I cannot say it proves closure for me,” Brough said in an email interview with the Star-Advertiser.

While Brough remains ambivalent about bin Laden’s death, she is

unequivocal in her support for U.S. troops involved in the ongoing war on terrorism. She spent Saturday with wives of Army soldiers on deployment.

“My deepest wish is for our troops to start returning home safely,” she said.

Brough said she has already made arrangements to travel to Pennsylvania for 10th-anniversary commemorations of 9/11.

And while the rest of the world begins to ponder the consequences of bin Laden’s demise, Brough prefers to reflect on the woman she calls “my treasure.”

“I miss my mom,” Brough said. “She was special, and those who knew her know what I mean. She was one in a million (and) everyone who met her was instantly taken by her. She was my treasure and now a national treasure.

“The pain from the loss I feel, and that of my family, is still deep,” she said. “But I hope (the news of bin Laden’s death) changes the course of the world once again.”

Stuart Ho spent the afternoon at a luncheon yesterday, but his friends knew enough to stay away from the topic of bin Laden’s death.

“They’ve been very respectful,” Ho said. “They’ve tried to stay off the subject.”

But Alex Lee’s friends frequently ask about his older brother, Rich, who would have been 44.

“Especially on the anniversary of 9/11, they’ll ask, ‘How are you doing?’ I tell them, ‘I don’t miss my brother any more today. I miss him like crazy all the time.’ It hurts every day just as much. Hearing this news (of bin Laden’s death) doesn’t make me feel better that he’s gone.”

In his Sunday night address to the world announcing bin Laden’s death, President Barack Obama said, “On nights like this one, we can say to those families who have lost loved ones to al-Qaida’s terror: Justice has been done.”

But Lee responded, “If justice has been served, everyone would be alive. The only justice would be if all the people didn’t have to die.”

Asked if he feels safer now that bin Laden’s dead, Lee said, “I’m thrilled that we got rid of somebody who was creating havoc all around the world. But, basically, we killed somebody, and I’m not sure that’s something any country can just do. But am I happy the guy is gone? I am.”

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