Clovis News

Valley reaction: Bin Laden death brings reflection, relief

Valley residents met the news of Osama bin Laden's demise with relief tinged with sadness for his many victims.

Some took to the streets for impromptu celebrations of patriotism. Some attended solemn tributes to those who died in the war on terror.

Others reflected quietly on what the fall of the al-Qaida leader would mean for a nation gripped by the threat of terrorism.

At an afternoon vigil at Clovis Cemetery, pastor Tim Rolen of New Hope Community Church told a gathering of friends of fallen soldiers, "This is not a celebration. It's a sad day that reminds us what the cost of freedom is."

Across the region, Monday was a day of reflection and remembrance.

Clovis man remembers 9/11 attacks firsthand

Clovis resident John Lystad, who was in the south tower of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, stayed up until 3 a.m. Monday watching news coverage of bin Laden's death.

"We didn't celebrate. We didn't jump up and down. We didn't go outside and wave flags around," he said. "It brought back a lot of memories for our family that weren't necessarily good."

Lystad remembers the faces of New York City firefighters rushing up the stairs of the twin towers as he headed down -- faces that were obliterated when the building collapsed on them. He remembers his wife and three kids in Clovis not knowing his fate. He remembers being unable to return home for days.

"The emptiness, the dust, the broken windows -- those things flash back," said Lystad, who was in New York for a training program with his former employer, Morgan Stanley, when the attacks occurred.

On Sunday night, he had mixed emotions about the death of the man behind the terror attack.

"It was surreal," he said. "We had all given up hope that he would be caught or maybe he was already dead but we would never know."

-- Kurtis Alexander

Vigil for fallen soldiers at Clovis Cemetery

About 45 people gathered at Clovis Cemetery on Monday afternoon for a vigil to those who had fallen in combat since the terrorist attacks.

Canopies were set up to shade the graves of some Clovis soldiers who had died in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some at the vigil looked solemn; others shared hugs and soft laughter.

Friends laid out scrapbooks, pictures, clippings of a 9/11 story and other memorabilia around the headstones of brothers Nathan and Jared Hubbard and friend Jeremiah Baro, whose graves are side by side. A half-dozen U.S. flags and several bouquets of flowers bordered the headstones.

Cpl. Jared Hubbard and Cpl. Jeremiah Baro died in a roadside bombing in Iraq in November 2004. In August 2007, Army Cpl. Nathan Hubbard died in a helicopter crash in Iraq.

Nearby, Keith and Robin Butterfield brought large, velvety red roses for the graves of their son, Marine Lance Cpl. Anthony Butterfield, and other Clovis soldiers. Butterfield was killed by a suicide bomber in Iraq in 2006.

Four friends of Butterfield gathered at his grave to share "a little bit of closure," said friend Greg Smith.

Smith, Travis Ryder, Mark Stephen and Daniel Rodriguez, who graduated from Buchanan High School with Butterfield, reflected on the news of bin Laden's death.

"As good as it felt, it won't bring anyone back," Rodriguez said.

Still, Robin Butterfield said it provided some comfort: "It's a relief he's not on this earth any more."

-- Paula Lloyd

Muslim man laments nephew's 9/11 death

Mohammad Ashraf, a Madera cardiologist and a Muslim active in the Valley's largest mosque, Masjid Fresno, said bin Laden's death is a good thing for Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

"Death is never good news, but Osama bin Laden dying is good for the whole Muslim community, non-Muslims, everybody,"Ashraf said. "The only negative thing which I can see is so much celebration. In my part of the world, celebration of anybody's death is wrong. It is no time for celebration. It is a time to reflect."

Ashraf has a personal tie to the Sept. 11 attacks. His nephew, Ehtisham Rana, died in the collapse of the World Trade Center's north tower.

About five minutes after the plane hit the north tower, Ashraf said, Rana called his company, TCG Software, to tell them he was all right and was "going to get out."

An hour and a half later, the tower collapsed.

On Monday, Ashraf said confirmation of Rana's death came three months later, when part of his leg was found and his identity was confirmed through a DNA match.

-- John Ellis

History class reflects on fall of bin Laden

Students in Ken Baptista's American history classes at Fresno's Edison High School were in kindergarten or second grade on Sept. 11, 2001.

They were too young then to understand what had happened. But on Monday, they grappled in class with the news that bin Laden, whose al-Qaida terrorist organization was behind the attacks, had been killed by American forces.

"Most are relieved, but there's underlying fear," said Baptista, who teaches history to freshmen and juniors. He had been scheduled to discuss a chapter in the classroom text on terrorism, but instead made bin Laden's death the topic of the day.

"The freshmen were upset to see celebrations of death" in Washington, D.C., and New York, he said.

Some students said during the class discussion they think al-Qaida will retaliate.

"We're feeling jubilation now, but we need to realize that this was their leader who they were willing to kill for," Jose Lopez said.

-- Paula Lloyd

9/11 widow praises intelligence work

One San Joaquin Valley resident with ties to the 9/11 terrorist attack is Clovis resident Shari Tolbert. Her husband, Otis Vincent Tolbert, was one of 198 people who died when a hijacked plane crashed into the Pentagon.

Tolbert, a Lemoore High School graduate who went on to play football at Fresno State, had a rising Navy career as an intelligence specialist.

Reached Monday, Shari Tolbert -- now 42 -- said she preferred to give a written statement on the killing of bin Laden.

"The intelligence community gets all of the credit," she said in the statement. "No matter which party is in office, the same men and women do the daily grind: crazy hours, months away from their families, stressful work, etc. Thank you to our friends in the intelligence community. It's the community Vince was proud to be a part of and the community who went and did the work."

-- John Ellis

Parents of 9/11 victim react to news

Family members of Tim Ward, a passenger on one of the hijacked planes that hit the World Trade Center, got a phone call Sunday evening that bin Laden was dead.

"It was very emotional," said Norma Ward, Tim Ward's stepmother. "There's a strong sense of closure. The person who orchestrated this terrorist act and took all those lives has been dealt with. You just hope and pray this is the beginning of the end of it."

Ward, 38, grew up in Visalia and lived in San Diego. He was employed in management in the Rubio's Baja Grill chain and had been back east visiting his girlfriend when he boarded ill-fated United Airlines Flight 175 from Boston to Los Angeles.

His stepmother said she woke her husband Ray Ward, Tim's father, to tell him about the news reports that bin Laden had been killed. He was skeptical at first, she said, but soon the news sunk in.

"My husband is very excited that he's been captured and shot," Norma Ward said.

-- Lewis Griswold

Valley Muslims feel sense of relief

Valley Muslims greeted news of bin Laden's death with an "immense sense of relief," the director of the Islamic Cultural Center of Fresno said Monday.

"Over the past decade, [the center] has stood firm on our stance in condemning the actions of bin Laden on 9/11 and all acts of terror at the hands of al-Qaida," said Kamal Abu-Shamsieh, director of the center.

"Bin Laden's actions have violated the sacred Islamic teachings upholding the sanctity of all human life, tarnished the image of Islam and misled many in the world about the true teachings and meaning of Islam."

The imam of the center, Seyed Ali Ghazvini, said most of the world's Muslims opposed the actions of al-Qaida.

And, he said, "the majority of victims of al-Qaida are and were Muslims."

-- Jim Guy