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Visitors reflect on bin Laden's killing at Pentagon Memorial

Article - Monday, May 2, 2011

Alex Pappas
The Washington Examiner  

George Washington University student James Brinton didn't celebrate the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden by dancing in the street or climbing trees outside the White House.

He had something else in mind. Unlike others from his school who waved large American flags and chanted patriotic songs in front of TV cameras, he opted for a more somber way Monday to mark the death of the world's most wanted terrorist and remember the thousands killed on Sept. 11, 2001.

"When I come here, I feel a whole lot of reverence about the whole thing," Brinton, 29, said Monday at the Pentagon, where 184 people died when terrorists hijacked United Airlines Flight 77 and crashed the plane into the huge building. He visited the Pentagon Memorial by himself, sitting quietly among the park's benches in the "spirit of reflection," he said.

He wasn't the only one. Dick Smith, a docent who volunteers at the Pentagon Memorial, said he saw two to three times as many people than usual visiting the site Monday. Many were there because of the bin Laden news, he said.

Others visiting the memorial, including service men and women who work inside the Pentagon, brought wreaths and laid down flowers.

"I'm very proud of my country," said Mary Engle of Poolesville, who brought an out-of-town visitor to the city for the day. "I think we've shown the world no matter how long it takes we will find you and we will get you."

As planes from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport flew nearby, Jeryl Johnson, a veteran of the Army National Guard in Atlanta, said he's still scared by the threat of terrorism.

"There's not just one person," he said of bin Laden. "There are thousands."

Over at the White House Monday, most of the revelers from late Sunday night were gone, though Joe Pisciotta, a retired history teacher at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, was still there wearing his American flag golf shirt.

"We've cut off the head off the snake and we've disrupted them," he said of al Qaeda.

Pisciotta had joined the thousands who celebrated Sunday night, but said he felt compelled to come back Monday as he kept reflecting on Sept. 11. On that day almost 10 years ago, he drove to the Pentagon to take pictures while smoke was billowing out of it.

Americans aren't the only ones thrilled that bin Laden is gone. Two French tourists from Paris touring D.C. for the first time took turns snapping photos in front of the White House posing with a copy of The Washington Examiner's cover story on bin Laden.

"It's emblematic," said one of the men, who called himself Antoine. "He was the leader." Click here to read the full story.