There were scenes of elation and mass celebration across the nation this weekend when the news broke that the Obama administration had successfully captured and killed the spiritual leader of al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden.
But some long-term Irish observers of the jihadist movement and its global ambitions gave a more cautious welcome to the long awaited news.
Rosaleen Tallon, who lost her 26-year-old probationary firefighter brother Sean Patrick Tallon on 9/11, told the Irish Voice on Tuesday that she had deeply mixed feelings about the news of bin Laden’s death.
“I don’t think you get any closure from something like that. Revenge doesn’t bring you closure,” Tallon said.
“I can honestly tell you, and my mom can tell you, that having faith that Sean is somewhere better, having in faith in God is where you get your closure. We went to Mass so often after 9/11. That’s what kept us strong as a family.”
If closure means peace and acceptance then the Tallon family has come to it through their Irish Catholic faith, Tallon says – her parents, Eileen and Patrick, are natives of Co. Kildare. If the Tallons are able to smile and laugh now when they think of Sean it’s because of their faith.
“We weren’t looking for closure through the death of Osama bin Laden. But at the same time Sean got caught up in all of that and then we did too. What we feel now is that at least this portion of the mission has been accomplished,” she says.
Tallon says she can certainly understand the scenes of the mass celebration that played out around the nation, but with reservations.
“My feeling is that the response must be tempered with the knowledge that the war continues. That’s what so upsetting about this war on terror. It’s so much more complicated than that,” she feels.
Tallon came to prominence as one of the founding members of Put it Above Ground, an organization that is seeking to create a street-level memorial that displays the names of those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001, and February 26, 1993, when the World Trade Center was first attacked.
A strong critic of the official Ground Zero memorial, Tallon opposes it because she believes it could potentially trap people in another terrorist attack -- and because she feels it disgraces the memory of the people who died. She would prefer to have the names of victims displayed prominently at street level so that they can be remembered in the light of day.
Tallon adds, “None of us really know where we’re going in the future in terms of the global terrorist threat. When I heard the news about bin Laden’s death I had such mixed feelings, and I realized that back in 2001 I naively thought if we captured him and a few others it would all be over. We’ve all learned so much since then.”
Tallon does not deny bin Laden’s capture is a major success for the military and the Obama administration. “We’re so grateful to all those men and women in uniform who devoted their lives to this. But we feel it’s so much bigger than Osama bin Laden,” she adds.
Asked what she made of the massive American flags that were unfurled in celebration around New York’s predominantly Muslim communities in Queens, Tallon said she thought it was a positive step.
“I’m American Irish and my heritage is very important to me. And I want to see much more of that, not just in isolated communities in New York. It needs to be across the country,” she says.
“It starts with people who feel they are very American, not just Muslim. I’d like to see a lot more support of this recent success from other Muslim nations, so I’m waiting for that too.”