BLOOMINGTON -- Relief and excitement were punctuated with decade-old memories Monday as Central Illinois reacted to the death of Osama bin Laden.
"It's about time," said Roger Cramer of Gibson City, owner of Ropp's Flower Factory. "It is amazing that someone can hide out in this world for 10 years and not be found. I am glad they got him."
For many, the name of the world's most-wanted man had been a part of their lives since childhood, when the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks brought widespread recognition of the terrorist leader.
"It's just a different day around the building," said Ron Conner, principal of Clinton High School. "Everyone is just ecstatic. The kids may not remember too much about what happened 10 years ago, but they understand the significance and understand we have been looking for this guy. But the adults certainly remember and there is a lot of talk about what's happening. It's a good day and it's been too long."
Jason Lichauer was a senior at Kansas (Ill.) High School in 2001 and the attacks led him to join the military. After serving two tours in Iraq, the sergeant now is a recruiter with the Illinois Army National Guard in Bloomington.
"Osama bin Laden was the international face of terrorism," he said at the National Guard Armory in south Bloomington. "Hopefully this will provide some closure."
"It's certainly been the talk around Pontiac this morning, and it's difficult to describe your feelings," said Pontiac Fire Chief John Cummins. "I'm not sure if it's a sense of relief or what. It's been almost 10 years since the September 11 event and it certainly makes you think about that day. There is a sense of something, but I'm not really sure what it is."
Paul Van Hook, owner of Paul's Upholstery in downtown Bloomington, is a U.S. Army veteran who served in the 1950s. He said bin Laden's death "doesn't make it all better, but it serves some justice. I hope it's the end. I hope there is no retaliation."
Added Sue Armstrong of Bloomington, whose grandson is a U.S. Army reservist: "I'm not fond of death, but sometimes justice is needed. And it's good to see this bringing hope back to people's hearts."
Ben Erickson had a measured response.
"Yeah, it's a big event for our country and the whole world," said Erickson, of Bloomington. "But the one thing I don't like is that it seems hard that we're celebrating the death of someone. I'd rather we'd be celebrating the justice."
Brendan Olson of Normal said bin Laden's death is more symbolic than meaningful and that it won't have a major impact on the current world situation.
News of bin Laden's death sped through the Twin Cities Sunday night, spurring an impromptu march across Illinois State University by about 1,000 cheering students.
Aankita Patel, 20, of Glendale Heights, and Nellie Romanowski, 20, both of Palatine, both are ISU sophomores who were in fifth grade when al Qaeda attacked America.
"I'm proud to be an American," said Patel. Both women are studying to become teachers.
Romanowski, who initially scoffed at the news, wasn't alone. "I thought it was a hoax at first," said Rick Clem, a veteran of the U.S. Marines. "After I heard the Americans had taken possession of his body, though, it became clear it was real."
Ron Umbright of Bloomington, who served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War, is proud American forces killed bin Laden.
"It was kind of shocking," he said. "Hopefully, this can avenge some justice for people who lost loved ones in the 2001 attacks."