Bernadine Lowell's living room in her south New Lenox home is big, but it feels empty. Besides a couple of chairs and an end table, there are memories of her son, Jacob, who died nearly four years ago during battle in Afghanistan.
After hearing the news that Osama bin Laden, the man who helped orchestrate the 9/11 attacks, died Sunday, Lowell thought about her son and what he fought for. And although some family members of 9/11 victims said they felt closure after bin Laden's death, she couldn't say the same for herself.
"I think about him every day, so there’s not going to be closure no matter who they capture," Lowell said. "Hopefully he’s up there, though, seeing who they get. Maybe it would be closure for him.”
Jacob, an Army specialist and 2003 graduate of Lincoln-Way Central High School, died in small-arms fire in June 2007. His mother said Monday that she was afraid for his safety when he decided to join the military, and more than anything after hearing the news of bin Laden's death, she thought about the other families who have loved ones serving overseas.
"I thought mostly about the men and women still out there fighting," she said. "There are still lots of threats out there other than (bin Laden). Unfortunately, they're going to be there for a long time."
Although the threats remain, Lowell said she was happy that her son's contributions, and everyone else's who served overseas in the hunt for bin Laden, helped remove one of those threats.
"I’m very proud of him and all the men and women in his troop," she said of Jacob, who would have turned 26 on Wednesday. "Maybe this is a good birthday present for him."
'The War on Terrorism is Far From Over'
Other New Lenox families were fortunate enough to have their loved ones who served in Afghanistan not only alive but back in the country for the time being. But despite the news of bin Laden's death being a good step, they said, there's still lots of work to be done.
Resident Pam Paridee got a text Monday morning from her sister, Air Force Lt. Col. Cheryl Scaglione, who was in charge of medical operations for the detention facility in Parwan, Afghanistan.
"Hi. Osama bin Laden’s dead," the text read matter-of-factly. And despite feeling some excitement about that, Paridee said there's still much to be concerned about.
"She was all for it that we needed to capture him and get him dead or alive, and it’s very important because he’s their main leader," Paridee said of Al Qaeda. "We can take down the people in charge, but it’s kind of scary right now. I think they’re going to try to prove they’re still strong."
Her sister, Scaglione, was honored during a homecoming celebration earlier this year and is now at Randolph Air Force Base near San Antonio, and Paridee is happy she's safe and back in the U.S.
"It was hard when she was over there, but she wanted to do her part to help out," she said. "Hopefully we can move forward from here and get our troops home."
U.S. Army Spc. Kevin Kwiecinski, also of New Lenox, is back at Fort Campbell in Kentucky after his first appointment in Afghanistan. The 22-year-old was welcomed home by friends and family in March, but now he faces the uncertainty of when he'll possibly return overseas.
"There’s always concern now, there’s always a possibility of a retaliation and things going on," his mother, Theresa, said. "He's not supposed to go back for a while, but you don’t know. It’s something they accept. There are a lot of mixed emotions today."
She spoke with her son briefly on Monday and said the consensus of his fellow troops is that though a battle has been won, a war is still going on.
"I don't want Americans to start getting complacent with our safety," Theresa Kwiecinski said. "The war on terrorism is far from over. My son said the troops (with him in Kentucky) feel like it’s one insurgent down but there are many more to fight against."
Despite all the loss that occurred on 9/11 and in the subsequent wars, the families with military personnel do see bin Laden's capture as a victory that could lead to safer, more peaceful times.
"You always hope it’s the beginning of the end," Lowell said. "It’s a good step in the right direction."