Americans awoke on Monday to a world without Osama bin Laden, and many felt jubilation, a surge of patriotism and a sense that their prayers had been answered and that the U.S. had finally avenged the nearly 3,000 people killed nearly a decade ago on Sept. 11, 2001.
But to many — including some of the same Americans glad to see bin Laden dead — the news didn't make them feel safer. It led to uncertainty and fear.
Walter Hillegass, a plumber who cleaned the dust-choked World Trade Center site for days after the attacks, said he is afraid of what comes next.
"I'm happy they got him," said Hillegass, staring at ground zero in New York, holding a U.S. flag. "But there's always going to be another one right behind him."
Outside Boston, Laura Bell, a 65-year-old claims examiner for a health care company, said she is glad bin Laden is dead but doesn't believe it will make the U.S. any safer.
"We can't relax," she said. "We can't sit back on our butts and say this is great. I don't want us to get lax about security."
State and city leaders across the country stepped up patrols at possible terrorist targets Monday for fear of retaliatory attacks. Some travelers said they didn't feel any different about flying in the wake of bin Laden's death.
Families of Sept. 11 victims weren't sure whether his death would bring them a measure of peace.
"This is a feeling of happiness but not jump-up-and-down happiness," said Charles Wolf of New York, who lost his wife, Katherine, in the attacks on the World Trade Center. "The idea of closure is something that really, really — it doesn't exist, to tell you the truth."
In Dearborn, Michigan — home to one of America's largest Arab and Muslim communities — drivers honked their horns and others gathered outside City Hall, chanting, "USA!" and waving American flags.
"It's a special day for us to show Americans we are celebrating, we are united," said Ahmed Albedairy, 35, who came to the U.S. from Iraq in 1996 and was one of about 20 people outside City Hall early Monday. He said it was important to celebrate the "death of the evil Osama bin Laden."
Everywhere, it seemed, people turned to the flag and American anthems to show their stripes. "Proud to Be an American" was played between innings of the Texas Rangers-Oakland A's baseball game Monday afternoon, and an announcer asked fans to "raise their Budweisers" in appreciation of the military.
While vast numbers of people celebrated — a crowd at a pro wrestling match screamed with excitement when they heard the news Sunday night in Tampa, Florida — others were uneasy about celebrating bin Laden's death like a sporting event.
Sam Sommers, an associate professor of sociology at Tufts University, said Sunday night's raucous celebrations in Washington and New York City may stem from Americans' desire to relive Sept. 11 — only with a different ending.
"We like to think of the world as being a just and fair place where you get what you deserve," Sommers said. "Sept. 11 was terrible for a number of reasons. It also shook our belief in that world view. Innocent people died senselessly. Seeing this closing scene to that story, for many people, provides a just ending. Maybe not a happy ending but an appropriate ending."