Port Washington reacted Monday to the death of terror mastermind Osama bin Laden. Locals shared a mix of concerns going forward, sentiments about the 9/11 victims and families, and a sense of patriotism.
“I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop," said John Chalker, commander of the Veterans of Foreign War, . “I feel it took way too long to catch this guy.”
The streets, shops and workplaces of Port Washington were abuzz with the news of the firefight in Pakistan that left bin Laden dead. In Starbucks, for example, some worried about their relatives overseas, while others reviewed the details of what they knew of the “targeted operation.”
Over coffee, Chalker said, “I think they’re going to try to do something vicious. Everyone’s incensed and they’re going to try to do something dramatic to show they still have strength.”
Chalker drew from his experience on what he saw in Iraq. [Editor's note: Chalker has generously shared some of his photos from Iraq and Ground Zero, which are included in this article's photo gallery.]
“I lost friends, fellow soldiers, and saw a lot of soldiers hurt,” he said. “My Humvee was hit by a bomb in 2005, and I was wounded.”
Chalker’s injuries were not life threatening, but his experience in serving to protect his country left a lasting impression. He served in the 69th NY Infantry Regiment, protecting Ground Zero, and later served in Iraq in 2004-05. He also served in the first Gulf War, and cites as a role model, his grandfather, who served in the Moro Insurrection in the Philippines.
“A big part of my life has been by happenstance,” he said. “Most guys serve in the National Guard thinking about hurricanes and national disasters. I don’t think any of the ones I served with in New York anticipated serving in conflicts or serving in Manhattan in full battle gear.”
While nearly a decade has passed since 9/11, Port Washington residents still remember learning about the attacks on the World Trade Center, and even seeing the Twin Towers smoldering from Half Moon Beach in Sands Point.
Chalker, a 30-year member of the Port Washington Police District, said, “I’m very happy that the have been doing counter-terrorism patrols. But now more than ever the general public has to be observant and more critical of what other people are doing, to detect and thwart any other terrorism attempts.”
Patriotism, too, filtered into the dialog throughout the peninsula.
Dr. Geoffrey Gordon, superintendent of , shared this thought with his staff: “Like all Americans who are united today, we are so proud of our brave Navy SEALS and those who protect our freedoms, commend our intelligence community and government for bringing to justice a mass murderer….To the families of the victims of 9/11, some of whom I personally worked with from that day forward, while nothing can ever replace your loss and grief, we extend our heartfelt love and at least the closure that the mastermind of murder has now met with justice and will be judged accordingly."
All veterans are welcome to march in the Memorial Day Parade on May 30, and should meet on Campus Drive at 9:30 a.m. No need for advance registration – “Just show up,” Chalker said.
Port Washington lost several locals in the Sept. 11 attacks. They are:
- Neil James Cudmore
- Timothy C. Kelly
- Justin McCarthy
- Antonio Jose Carrusca Rodrigues
- Keiichiro Takahashi
- Dinah Webster