'There is peace': Death of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri prompts reflection at New York's 9/11 memorial

NEW YORK CITY — One day later President Joe Biden announced Knowing that an American strike had killed al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri, Joe Gallant gazed at the 9/11 memorial built where the World Trade Center once stood.

“We had planned to come here today anyway to honor the thousands who were killed,” said Gallant, 68, who was visiting with his two nephews from Bangor, Maine. “So the timing couldn’t have been better than us.” I’m here the day they caught one of the motherfuckers who did it.

A weekend US drone strike in Afghanistan killed al-Zawahri, 71, nearly 21 years after he helped Osama bin Laden orchestrate attacks in New York and Washington, DC, that killed some 3,000 people on September 11, 2001. While bin Laden was the founder of al-Qaida, al-Zawahri played a crucial role in many of its plots.

WHO WAS AYMAN AL-ZAWAHRI? The al-Qaeda master strategist was Osama bin Laden’s mentor and later successor.

In this 1998 file photo, Ayman al-Zawahri, left, gives a news conference with Osama bin Laden in Khost, Afghanistan.

In this 1998 file photo, Ayman al-Zawahri, left, gives a news conference with Osama bin Laden in Khost, Afghanistan.

On Tuesday, dozens of people milled around the South and North Pools created in the footprints of the Twin Towers that collapsed after being attacked by suicide hijackers sent by al-Qaeda.

Raymond Holloway, 35, and his wife Ngozi, 42, looked at the names of those killed, etched into metal.

“My dad was in the building that morning it happened,” said Holloway, who lives in Montgomery, Alabama, but is originally from New York. “He was a paralegal serving documents at 5 in the morning. So his name very well could have been on that wall.”

It was Ngozi Holloway’s first time in New York and he said al-Zawahri’s killing was “like a little bit of justice for everyone who was lost, for their families.”

‘He’s not going to do it to anyone else’

Others, like Joy Alario Lonibos, didn’t even know al-Zawahri was dead. But he perked up when he heard the news.

“Amen,” he said. “He will never heal or fix what he orchestrated, but there is peace in knowing he won’t do it to anyone else.”

Lonibos and her husband, David, were visiting from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. And she says she wanted to go to the downtown memorial to pay tribute to a woman she’s never met but feels connected to.

MOST WANTED: After al-Zawahri’s death, US’s most wanted list includes two dozen accused terrorists

“Margaret Alario is the name of one of the people who perished that day, and it’s such an unusual name that I thought, ‘We have to be related,'” she says of the woman who shares her maiden name. “So I had to come take a picture and pray for her family.”

Lonibos remembers sitting in a hospital waiting room on 9/11 with her 5-year-old son, holding a rosary as she watched the terror attacks on television. And she found out about Margaret when she watched the annual memorial service, where the names of the victims are read aloud by her loved ones.

“But nothing feels like being here,” Lonibos said. “It’s extremely overwhelming and emotional.”

One of Gallant’s nephews also reflected on the monument built to commemorate an attack that occurred before he was born.

“Obviously you hear all about it (in school) every year,” said 18-year-old Collin Scobie.

But his feelings about the US attack and al-Zawahri’s death were more muted than his uncle’s.

“I understand why they did it and it’s obviously a win for our country,” Scobie said. “But I can’t say I have any connection to that.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ayman al-Zawahri’s assassination prompts reflection at New York’s 9/11 memorial

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