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Bin Laden's death triggers deep emotions

News that Osama bin Laden was shot and killed by American troops Sunday stirred a deep range of emotions for the family of Max Beilke.

Bin Laden was the mastermind of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center Towers in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. nearly a decade ago.

Beilke, the deputy chief of retirement services for the Army, was working in the Pentagon that morning and died when a hijacked plane crashed into the building. He was honored as a hero and the Alexandria Veterans Affairs clinic bears his name.

Beilke's sister, Lucille Johnson of Evansville, received a call Sunday night from her pastor, asking her if she'd heard about bin Laden's death.

She's still trying to wrap her mind around it.

"I don't know - people just can't go around killing people. There are other ways of handling this," she said Monday morning. "But it was our American troops that did it and they had orders to do it."

Johnson said if it had been up to her, she would have rather seen bin Laden captured instead of killed.

"Bin Laden wasn't the man who killed my brother - he just gave the order to do it," she said. "The man that killed my brother was flying the plane."

While some celebrated and cheered the news of bin Laden's death, Johnson's reaction was more somber and rooted in her faith.

"As much as we hated the man, it was kind of a yucky day," she said. "But God gave us this day to make the best of and that's what we'll do."

Another one of Beilke's sisters, Mildred Johnson, who lives near Lake Miltona, was still trying to sort out her feelings on Monday morning.

"I hope it's the end of his terror but I wonder how many of his people are behind him," she said. "Outside of that, I'll have to wait and see."

The hunt for bin Laden has been filled with so many ups and downs over the past decade that Mildred isn't entirely convinced that bin Laden is, in fact, dead.

"I do hope it's true but it hasn't actually sunken in yet," she said. "I just hope and pray the news is right."

When Beilke's first cousin, Ray Beilke of Carlos, heard that President Barack Obama would be addressing the nation Sunday night, he thought it would have something to do with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

"When it turned out to be bin Laden, I thought, 'Boy, how did they finally get that job done?' " Beilke said.

Later, Beilke and the rest of the world learned that an elite team of Navy SEALS slid down ropes from Chinook helicopters and stormed the compound in Pakistan where U.S. intelligence had determined bin Laden was hiding. After an intense 40-minute firefight, soldiers shot bin Laden in the head and then quickly buried him at sea.

Beilke said he was impressed with the fact that the soldiers accomplished the mission without creating an international incident and without any U.S. injuries.

"They did a super job," Beilke said. "We've got to give our military intelligence an awful lot of credit."

Beilke said he was glad that bin Laden, the perpetrator of the worst-ever terrorist attack on U.S. soil, was finally brought to justice.

"This is a day we've been looking forward to," he said. "It's a great relief that we don't have to wonder about that chapter of life anymore."

Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
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