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A wounded boro hails Osama’s fall

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Feelings of joy and relief over the killing of Osama bin Laden were mixed with the realization by Queens families that despite the al-Qaeda leader’s death Monday, their loved ones who fell victim to the plans of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks could not be brought back.

“I feel relieved that they caught him, but I don’t have my son back,” said Queens Village resident Constance Higdon, whose son, 106th Precinct Detective Wesley Higdon, died in 2009 of an aggressive form of pneumonia that she believed was brought on by her son’s rescue efforts at Ground Zero. “I can only speak for myself. I have mixed feelings. I don’t have closure because I don’t feel this is the end.”

At a news conference Monday in Manhattan, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said the city was on high alert, although there were no new immediate threats in the wake of bin Laden’s death.

“In the dark days that followed Sept. 11, we made a solid commitment” to getting bin Laden, the mayor said. “[On Sunday], Osama bin Laden found out America keeps to its commitments.”

Bin Laden was killed late Sunday night during a confrontation with an elite group of Navy Seals inside a compound in the Pakistani suburb of Abbottabad, about 60 miles from the capital, Islamabad.

Kelly said officers were instructed to be on alert for any suspicious packages and have increased bag searches in the subway and have increased manpower at key subway stations.

Bloomberg said he was notified by U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano that bin Laden had been killed.

“I thought about the thousands of lives and I’m glad that the military did what they did,” the mayor said.

Marvin Bethea, a first responder who said he developed asthma, sinusitis, post-traumatic stress disorder and possibly depression after the attacks, said bin Laden’s death came as a shock.

“I was stunned and I broke down and I cried,” he said.

Long Island City resident Al Santora, whose firefighter son Christopher died responding to the terror attacks, called the killing of bin Laden a “bittersweet victory.”

“You can’t be complacent and think that this is over ... hopefully, they’ll [al-Qaeda] be affected for a long time,” Santora said.

Marie Corrigan of Little Neck, whose husband, Capt. James Corrigan of Engine Co. 320 in Bayside, was off-duty Sept. 11 but helped his colleagues during the attacks and died in the Twin Towers, said she was not jubilant over bin Laden’s death.

“I really wasn’t celebrating. It was a little more relief than anything. I saw the celebrations on TV and I was more touched by the celebrations than the news,” Corrigan said. “I’m glad that now that he’s gone, maybe some other families might not have to go through what we went through, but I don’t think there’s ever going to be total closure on something like this.”

Forest Hills resident Dorie Pearlman’s 18-year-old son Richard, an EMT, also died as the World Trade Center collapsed.

Pearlman said she was frustrated over how long it took to find and kill bin Laden and said she would have preferred that he was captured instead.

“He didn’t die the way I wanted him to die. I wanted him to be caught alive. He didn’t suffer. And he caused so much suffering. He should have suffered,” she said.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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