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What we really lost

In this photo from 1986, Donna Marsh O'Connor of Liverpool sits with her daughter Vanessa. Vanessa was killed in the Sept. 11 attacks.

In this photo from 1986, Donna Marsh O'Connor of Liverpool sits with her daughter Vanessa. Vanessa was killed in the Sept. 11 attacks.

— “But I don’t know that I would know as much as I know just in terms of the details of 9/11 as I do now. It wouldn’t have been a personal ‘what happened to Vanessa.’ It would have been what happened to the city I love. I was born and raised in New York City.”

In fact, O’Connor just dropped off her youngest son, Jackson, at college outside New York City.

“All of my kids love New York City,” she said. “I don’t know – maybe it’s in the blood.”

Death is not a thing to celebrate

The last decade has wrought many changes, but it has not brought closure to O’Connor and her family; that’s something she doubts she’ll ever truly have. The demise of the man primarily responsible for her daughter’s death did little to assuage her grief.

“Immediately, my response was sadness,” O’Connor said. “It was late evening when it broke on the news, and I didn’t understand why my first instinct was to cry. I mean, why would I? And then, when I thought about it, it’s clear – when something like that happens to your child, you are locked in a relationship with that person for the rest of your life. You never could have imagined when you were 5 or 6 that the name Osama bin Laden would be important in your life. He would be a person who made a pivotal and horrible change, but he had a kind of power over your life.”

O’Connor said her family felt no joy over bin Laden’s death; their family does not celebrate the death of another, no matter what. In fact, she saw it as yet another of the terrorist’s crimes.

“In that sense, if I think about the power and the resources and the ability for this man to make other people act, what a waste,” she said. “Imagine if he had used that ability to make men act in ways that were kind or compassionate. It was sad.”

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