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Campus reacts to Osama bin Laden’s death

Megan Doyle | Tuesday, May 3, 2011

On September 11, 2001, freshman Beau Dolan’s father was among the Pentagon employees responding to the World Trade Center attacks in New York when Flight 77 flew into his office window.

Nearly 10 years later, Dolan held an American flag in front of a crowd at LaFortune Student Center and led a student celebration through campus after hearing the news about Osama bin Laden’s death Sunday evening.

“It’s never going to be gone, but I felt really relieved yesterday — a weird kind of peace,” Dolan said. “This guy murdered my dad, and he has been on the run for 10 years. I never got that sense of justice. After 10 years, I think I deserved to be ecstatic about this.”

Dolan first heard the news when his mother called him from their home in Washington, D.C. Dolan said he was unsure how to react initially.

“When I found out from [my mom], I didn’t know what to make of it,” he said. “Then I told my friend, and he got really excited, and then I realized that this was something that was worth getting really, really excited about.”

Dolan said he called his older sister and was surprised when he became emotional.

“It’s finally over,” he said to his sister.

Growing up with the full weight of September 11th and its impact on his life was challenging, and Dolan said he typically did not talk to others about his experience.

“It’s really hard finding yourself, especially when something that big happens to American and then you are part of it, you never really know how to deal with it,” he said.

Now, Dolan said he found a sense of closure.

“Just the fact that Osama bin Laden is dead, I feel like that is a chapter of your life that finally closes,” he said.

His father’s death and the attacks of September 11th motivated Dolan toward his future career.

“It definitely has inspired me for the rest of my life. I want to work for the government, and I’m majoring in Arabic and political science,” Dolan said. “I want to work in the Middle East.”

Dolan said he wanted the world to understand that Islam is not the face of terrorism.

“I want to be able to go and work against the people that are actually the bad people and at the same time show them that the majority of the 1.5 billion people who are Muslims — they are good people,” he said. “From here, I want to work towards that goal.”

Kevin Garcia, a 2009 graduate from Notre Dame, was on a 15-day leave from his tour in Iraq when he learned of bin Laden’s death. He was visiting his brother, senior Mike Garcia, on campus when he heard the news.

“It is a win for justice,” Kevin Garcia said. “It is a win for America.”

Kevin Garcia will return to Iraq May 11.

“It’s going to be interesting because it is not a hierarchical organization, al-Qaida,” Kevin Garcia said. “It’s a network.”

He said he built positive relationships with the Iraqi community near his base, and he anticipated the local people would have a positive reaction to bin Laden’s death.

“Most of the people in Iraq, I would say 90 percent, are good people,” he said. “There are maybe 10 percent who are malicious … but overall I’m sure their reaction will be good. They are targeted as much as we are.”

Kevin Garcia said the success of the mission to find and kill bin Laden would renew the energy back in his Iraqi base.

“I guarantee the morale is pretty high,” he said. “We have been searching for this guy for 10 years.”

Mike Garcia said he immediately thought of his brother when he heard the news about bin Laden’s death.

“That’s my brother,” he said. “He’s an American hero.”

Mike Garcia said while he was initially uncertain about celebrating a death, he did celebrate a victory for justice.

“We are celebrating justice, and when we do that I feel that it is good,” he said. “It is good to celebrate something … that will save lives.”

Mike Garcia said he worries about an escalation of violence as a result of the terrorist leader’s death, but he supports his brother in his military career.

“It has been tough. You never know what is happening over there and [Kevin] can only talk to us every other week,” Mike Garcia said. “We just keep praying for him … We know that Our Lady is watching over him and all the troops.”

Senior Christopher Bennet, a native of Pelham, N.Y., remembers the billowing towers of smoke rising from nearby New York City when the World Trade Centers were attacked in 2001.

“Retribution and revenge were not the motivating factors that came out of that day for me,” Bennett said. “Rather, I realized that the world can be dangerous. There is a need for people to step up and protect each other, and a need for greater awareness of our surroundings in the increasing globalized world.”

Bennett joined the Army ROTC program as a freshman at Notre Dame. He will be commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Tennessee Army National Guard upon graduation and will eventually serve as a Reconnaissance Platoon Leader for his unit in Tennessee.

“Personally, I joined the military hoping to prevent horrific acts like that from happening again and to assist those in need if a devastating event does occur,” Bennett said.

Bennett said he learned of bin Laden’s death through a friend’s Twitter feed and major news outlets.

As he prepares for a future in the military, Bennett echoed Obama’s message from his Sunday address that the terrorist leader’s death does not end the war on terror.

“There are many service members deployed abroad, far from friends and family.  They will not be coming home today or tomorrow,” Bennett said. “Rather, they will continue working to make the world a safer place.  Please remember them and their efforts, as well as the service members who have been wounded or killed.”