‘Mixed emotions’ for 9/11 families

A New York firefighter who paid his respects to the 9/11 victims, laying a wreath at the Exmouth memorial, has spoken of ‘mixed emotions’ at the news of Osama bin Laden’s death.

Retired New York firefighter and 9/11 survivor Tim Brown, who came to Exmouth in 2005 to lay a wreath at the Phear Park memorial, said Bin Laden’s death has stirred a ‘rollercoaster’ of emotions.

On September 11, 2001, Tim was working on the 23rd floor of the World Trade Center when the first aeroplane hit.

Tim, who lost his friend, firefighter Michael Lynch, in the attack – and scores of comrades - said the hearing of the news the terrorist mastermind was dead was a bittersweet moment.

The retired firefighter, who, on that fateful day was working for the mayor’s office of emergency management as director of field operations, said Osama Bin Laden was the ‘devil on this earth’.

Tim, from Manhattan, who in the aftermath of the second air attack set up a command post in the lobby of Tower Two - where he found human panic and chaos - said the news was a proud moment for America and for the firefighters and police who lost their lives saving others.

He said: “This is justice for them and in their honour. They were innocent heroes just doing their job and stepping forward. They ran in that building and the cops ran in that building.

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“I have mixed emotions; one moment I want to get up and cheer, then you remember what happened, and what was lost, and then you want to cry.

“I have spoken to a lot of families and my friends and they all say the same -it’s mixed emotions.

“I was home when I heard the lead up. There was something big – a national security announcement the President was going to make. It was when everybody was talking about Libya.

“When they said Bin Laden was dead, I was speechless. We have wanted this and waited for this for nearly 10 years.”

In 2001, Tim, then 42, narrowly cheated death on September 11 when he fled to the nearby Marriot Hotel as the fated Tower Two began to fall.

He became trapped in the hotel lobby when the remaining tower collapsed on the hotel roof – surviving by holding onto one of the central columns in the lobby.

He said the rubble was five storeys high and the sound of the falling building was the loudest noise he had ever heard - like 10 jets – followed by an eerie silence.

Tim, who, in 2005, stood shoulder-to-shoulder with firefighters from Exmouth and Budleigh Salterton at the Phear Park 9/11 memorial, praised the Navy Sea Air and Land (SEAL) Team’s six members who killed Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan earlier this week.

He said their actions and four-year mission to catch Bin Laden had left him with ‘deep gratitude’ and ‘bursting with pride’.

Tim said: “It’s the proudest moment I can remember since September 12 - the day afterwards. It brings back that spirit. I can’t express the thanks we have for the Navy SEALS who carried out the successful mission.

“Every family member I have spoken with has the same sentiments - they would love to hug them and shake their hands.”

But, while many in the world are celebrating Bin Laden’s death, Tim said the families of firefighters lost that day would rather the terrorist leader was still alive – if it meant their loved ones were also.

Tim said memories of 9/11 remained ‘raw’. He said Bin Laden’s death was unlikely to bring closure.

He said: “It’s certainly very symbolic. Most of the families I talk with don’t embrace that word. To get closure, they would have to get their loved ones back and that’s not going to happen.”