DEARBORN, Mich. — Drivers honked their horns in celebration along the main avenue of Arab-American commerce in the heavily Middle Eastern suburb of Dearborn as news of Osama bin Laden’s death spread across the city. Yet more gathered outside City Hall, chanting “U.S.A.” and waving American flags.
“It’s a special day for us to show Americans we are celebrating, we are united,” said Ahmed Albedairy, 35, of Dearborn, who came to the U.S. from Iraq in 1996 and was one of about 20 people outside City Hall very early Monday. He said it was important to celebrate the “death of the evil Osama bin Laden” in “the center of Dearborn.”
Dearborn is home to one of the nation’s largest Arab and Muslim communities. Roughly one-third of the 100,000 residents trace their roots to the Middle East.
At the Arabica Café, the big screen TVs that normally show sport were all turned to news channels.
Leila Hussein, a 24-year-old waitress at the café, says she learned of the extraordinary development from a customer who asked if he could turn the TVs to a cable news network. About a dozen people inside the restaurant watched as President Barack Obama said the leader of the al-Qaida network had been killed in a U.S. military-led operation.
“It’s good he’s out of the world,” said Hussein, who was in middle school in Dearborn on Sept. 11, 2001.
Café manager Mohamed Kobeissi said it’s finally justice for the Sept. 11 victims. The 54-year-old lifelong Dearborn resident said he feels safer — as a Muslim and as an American — because the mastermind behind the attacks is gone.
“We felt we got relief by him getting killed. Thank God, finally, it’s a done job,” he said. “I think by seeing him out of our life gives us comfort. At least no big harm will come to the Muslim community in the U.S. from him or people like him.”
Patrick Anderson, a Michigan man who escaped from a hotel at the World Trade Center complex soon after the first plane struck the north tower in the Sept. 11 attacks, said bin Laden’s death marks a “bittersweet day.”
“There’s no joy in his death for me,” Anderson said in a statement. “I won’t be firing guns in the air. However, the world is a better place without him.”
Anderson is the founder and chief executive of Anderson Economic Group in East Lansing. He was in New York on Sept. 11, 2001, to attend a conference and work on a book. He started the “Michigan Remembers 9-11 Fund” that is raising money for a Sept. 11 memorial for those with Michigan ties.
In Ann Arbor, home to the University of Michigan, small groups of students celebrated bin Laden’s death by waving American flags and singing patriotic songs, AnnArbor.com and The Michigan Daily reported. A bottle of champagne was sprayed, and cars drove through Ann Arbor with passengers chanting “U.S.A.”
Bin Laden’s death drew quick reaction from Michigan members of the U.S. House and Senate.
U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said bin Laden’s death “closes a key chapter in the war on terror” but noted that the U.S. will continue to fight terrorism.
“We have brought to justice a terrorist with the blood of thousands of Americans on his hands, and brought justice to the families of his victims,” Rogers said in a statement released early Monday.
U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., thanked those involved in the mission.
“Our country is united in gratitude to the brave men and women of our intelligence and counter terrorism community and our troops for their sacrifices in keeping us safe from terror,” Stabenow said in a statement.
Khaldon Masri, 23, whose father owns the Masri Sweets bakery in Dearborn, saw the news of bin Laden’s death on TV late Sunday.
“It’s about time,” said Masri, whose family business has been around for 25 years. “No more hide and seek.”