Tim Dudgeon sat on a bench at the Pentagon Memorial and lightly ran his fingers over the name of his fiancee, Sandra “Sandy” Taylor, engraved on one of the benches there. Taylor, 50, an Alexandria resident, was a civilian employee of the U.S. Army who died in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
“It’s such a happy day,” Dudgeon said, crying as he said it. “It is one of those things, a good day but a tough day.”
Dudgeon, 63, a marketing professional from Arlington, saw the news of Osama bin Laden’s death Monday morning and was “elated.” Then his mind started to whirl. Memories came rushing back of his fiancee, a tall, outgoing blonde with, as he put it, “great legs.” The gold engagement ring with three diamonds that he bought her, miraculously recovered from the rubble. He got it back months later.
Sitting on her bench, he said, “Today I think it’s necessary I be here.”
The news that bin Laden had been shot in the head while resisting an assault by Navy SEALs on a compound in Pakistan also was a reason to look ahead. Bin Laden’s killing brought concern about possible reprisals.
A Department of Homeland Security official said the nation was at a “heightened state of vigilance.”
“Our security posture, which always includes a number of measures both seen and unseen, will continue to protect the American people from an evolving threat picture both in the next days and beyond,” the official said.
Metro is increasing security on the bus and rail systems, as are Amtrak, Virginia Railway Express and the Maryland Transit Administration. Metro spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said transit police are working with area law enforcement agencies. She said riders will notice more uniformed officers, though it was not readily apparent during the morning commute. Amtrak said it will use police teams using bomb-sniffing dogs.
But at Arlington National Cemetery, security guards checked license plates of approaching drivers, a cautionary step “because of Osama bin Laden,” a guard said.
Area politicians simultaneously praised the assault on bin Laden’s compound and urged residents to be on the lookout for anything suspicious.
District Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) saluted the military and intelligence officers involved in the raid, but said residents of the nation’s capital should “remain vigilant at all times.”
In Maryland, Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) called for a day of “reflection and prayer for a more peaceful future.” Bin Laden’s death, he said, “closes a sad and tragic chapter in our country and our world’s history.”
And in Virginia, the major candidates in next year’s marquee Senate race reacted quickly to the news.
Former governor Tim Kaine (D) called bin Laden’s death a “major victory in our long-fought war against terrorism,” and added that “justice was served.”