Mainers react with mixed emotions to news of bin Laden’s death

Posted May 02, 2011, at 3:17 p.m.
Last modified May 02, 2011, at 4:53 p.m.

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When Tom and Jane Zimmerman of Smyrna woke up to two urgent texts on their cell phones Monday morning, they learned that the U.S. had finished the job that their late son, Marine 1st Lt. James Zimmerman, had helped start.

The texts were brief: Osama bin Laden was dead.

It was news that Jane Zimmerman, James’ mother, said she was happy to hear. Zimmerman died Nov. 2, 2010, while conducting combat operations in Helmand province in Afghanistan.

During her son’s funeral in November, several speakers remarked that James had died “taking the fight to the enemy.” It was something he was very passionate about, his mother said Monday afternoon, and ridding the world of bin Laden was something he considered “his job.”

“James told me several times that his job was to find bin Laden,” she said. “Osama bin Laden was a leader of wrong, and he damaged or took the lives of a whole lot of people. Finding him was part of the purpose of this war.”

Even though it has taken awhile to kill bin Laden, Zimmerman said, she was “confident” this day would come.

“I believe that our American soldiers are trained well, so I was not surprised,” she said. “The only reason we go to war is to protect people and allow them the chance to live well, and James told me so many stories of children over in Afghanistan who hadn’t been able to go to school for seven years. It wasn’t a good way of life, and James knew that. That is why he fought. Now, I am glad that we will not see Mr. bin Laden on this earth any more.”

In Lubec, while other parts of the country were rejoicing in the streets at news of bin Laden’s death, a somber mood settled over this small coastal town Monday as residents were reminded of loss.

Two community members, Robert, 85, and Jacqueline Norton, 61, were passengers on American Airlines Flight 11 that originated in Boston and was the first of the two hijacked planes to slam into the towers at New York’s World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. The couple was en route to Los Angeles to attend the wedding of Jackie Norton’s son, Jason Seymour.

“Nobody is talking about it too much,” Betty Case said Monday from the Lubec Town Office.

Robert Norton’s cousin, Lawton Carter, 99, said his first thought on hearing the news Monday morning was, “Good riddance.” Carter, who is now a resident at the Maine Veterans’ Home in Machias, said he and Norton grew up together at Herring Cove. He said his cousin was “a good guy,” and he still thinks of him every day.

Referring to bin Laden’s death, Carter said, “They should have got him a long time ago. It’s a good thing he is gone.”

Richard Hoyt said that as residents of Lubec sit around the local coffee shop, their common wish is to bring U.S. soldiers home.

“That is the clear sentiment,” he said.

Hoyt has kept a Saturday morning vigil at a small park in Lubec ever since the U.S. went to war in Afghanistan, and then Iraq.

“Sixty cents of every taxpayer dollar goes to the military. We are all victims of this war,” he said.

Hoyt said he felt sorrow upon learning of bin Laden’s death.

“I’m a Quaker,” he said. “I’m saddened by bin Laden’s death just as I am saddened by his actions.”

Hoyt believes that if the U.S. had responded with humanitarian aid to the Middle East rather than bombs, the world would have reacted with awe.

“Our country would have been far better off if we reacted by better understanding the Muslim world,” he said.

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