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 that bright September day nearly a decade ago.
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 scared 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."
At the Salt Lake City airport, Mike Hensley wondered whether flying will be safer.
"Safer is subjective," said Hensley, who served with the Navy in Desert Storm in 1991 and flew from San Diego to Salt Lake City on Monday. "Should him being killed make people feel safer? Not really. He's had 10 years to build an organization larger than it was 10 years ago."
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.
"I don't think they (al-Qaida) would be able to get things together this quickly, after 24 hours, but I think it could be quite scary in the future," said Lorraine Mastropietro of Lakeland, Fla., who was flying from Newark, N.J., to Tampa, Fla.
Families of 9/11 victims weren't sure whether his death would bring them a measure of peace.
Nearly 10 years later, Charles Wolf of New York still falls asleep each night on one side of his bed.
"This is a feeling of happiness but not jump-up-and-down happiness," said Wolf, 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 Mich. _ home to one of the nation'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, of Dearborn, 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 game Monday afternoon, and an announcer asked fans to "raise their Budweisers" in appreciation of the military.
Pat Moss of Sperry, Okla., whose son Naval Petty Officer 1st Class Brian Moss was killed at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, said relief gave way to disbelief: What if bin Laden wasn't really dead?
"It was like a prayer was answered for us, my husband and I both," Moss said. "Then I thought, wait a minute, how do they know? Then I started having doubts: Could it not be him? Maybe just a lookalike."
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, Fla. _ others were uneasy about celebrating bin Laden's death like a sporting event.
"It's great he can't hurt anybody anymore. But it's kind of weird how we're celebrating a murder," said Dana DeMartino, 31, of Montpelier, Vt., sitting in a Dunkin' Donuts with a friend Monday afternoon. "It's just a little weird to me. Doesn't seem right."
In Washington, David Haas and daughter Catherine Haas from Annapolis, Md., were drawn to the Pentagon Memorial on Monday. Catherine was in kindergarten on the day of the attacks.
"We're at the middle of the beginning of the end," David Haas said. "We're at war with Islamic terrorism. And we're going to be at war with Islamic terrorists probably for the rest of my life."
His daughter said: "I think that the war will never end because just because there are so many lone terrorists. They'll just pop up just because America stands for something that they don't believe in."
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."
Contributing to this report were: Janie McCauley in Oakland, Calif., John Curran in Montpelier, Vt., Jeff Karoub in Dearborn, Mich., Lynn DeBruin in Salt Lake City, Nomann Merchant in Little Rock, Ark., Steve Karnowski in Minneapolis, Larry Neumeister and Karen Matthews in New York, Michael Hill in Albany, N.Y., Denise Lavoie in Boston, Carolyn Thompson in Buffalo, N.Y., Sarah Brumfield in Linthicum, Md., and Samantha Henry in Newark, N.J.