In the garden of the 9/11 dead, a spirit of consolation is stirring

Middletown, New Jersey, lost 37 residents in the Twin Towers. David Usborne talks to the bereaved about the week's events

Look about as you walk the brick path through the 9/11 Memorial Garden in Middletown, New Jersey, and you will see some changes from a few days ago. A cluster of red and blue helium balloons shaped as hearts have snagged in bushes by one of the memorial stones. By another lies a new note in a picture frame.

These tiny tributes may not be as grand as the wreath laid by President Barack Obama at Ground Zero yesterday to honour the perished in the Twin Towers tragedy and mark the snaring at last of the perpetrator of it, Osama bin Laden, but they may speak more directly to the poignancy of this long-delayed moment in America. "Thank you to our troops," the message in the frame read. "Justice was finally served".

It had been placed on the ground in front of the stone for Kenneth Tietjen – "Beloved Son, Brother and Friend" – a police officer who died on that day. The balloons were delivered by Kristen Grazioso, 14, who like so many returned to the Memorial Garden in Middletown when she heard the news that Bin Laden was finally erased. Her father, John Grazioso, died in the Twin Towers when she was just four.

If the spirits stirred a little at Ground Zero this week, the hope in this town is that something in the souls of the living and the dead will have shifted just a tiny bit also. It may be easiest to sense at the Memorial Garden, which is a reminder of the town's special woe: 37 residents of Middletown died in the Twin Towers. Only Hoboken, across the river from Manhattan, suffered a higher toll.

Across from the Memorial is the train station where on that clear blue morning in September, so many Middletown residents caught the train, as they did every day, for the 45 minute commute to Manhattan. As Bruce Briggs, a former New York City sanitation worker who helped clear the wreckage of the mound at Ground Zero, recalled yesterday, the town only had its first clue of the loss it had suffered when the station staff noticed how many cars did not leave the car park that day or for several days after.

"You know, for a while, we didn't really know what had happened to them," Mr Briggs, 55, remarked, nailing up pictures for an amateur photography exhibition in the town's arts centre yesterday. "For a while we hoped maybe they were buried but would come out, but we didn't really know."

In fact, Middletown had that day lost more of its people than during the First World War and the Second World War combined. Today, it is hard to find someone in this community of about 60,000, a large number of whom are of Irish and Italian descent, who did not have some connection with what happened in Lower Manhattan that September day.

Among them is Christopher Magnotta, 27, who yesterday was buying a new season ticket at Middletown station. Even though he was only 17 at the time, he had been helping an uncle at his commodities brokerage firm at Ground Zero and had stopped to go back to school here only one day before the attacks. His uncle survived.

"I am extremely happy they got Bin Laden," he said. "But I don't think getting him is going to make this country safe necessarily. But if you keep chopping at the snake eventually you will get down to the tail."

Mike Valese, 46, a parks and recreation worker for the town has multiple connections. His son's girlfriend was in Tower One when the planes hit, but survived. And he helped build the Middletown Memorial which features one stone for each of its 37 lost residents and a large arch in polished black granite at the entrance. Yesterday, he was back at the garden mowing the lush, spring grass.

Like everyone here Mr Valese hopes that the killing of Bin Laden will offer at least some consolation to those who lost members of their immediate families here. "I think knowing that he is gone is going to ease a little of the pain, and I believe that this week they have been brought a little closer to their loved ones again."

Lisa Strydio, who is a council worker of the neighbouring town of Keansburg got up yesterday and decided she needed to visit the Memorial Garden here on the day that President Obama would be at Ground Zero. With her husband, Danny, at her side, she walked the brick path while recalling seeing the smoke from the towers from a hospital where she worked close to Columbia University at the other end of Manhattan. She too, at the time, had no idea so many of her neighbours were to be among the death rolls. Danny's job for a week after – for the same hospital – was help pull out body parts from the wreckage. His cousin, who worked in the Towers, got out safely.

"This town got hit the hardest and I am glad they caught him," Lisa says of the demise of Bin Laden. "But do I think this brings the whole terrorism crisis to an end? Absolutely not. I am afraid now of retaliation." As for the effect it will have on the town, she said: "I think on some level it will bring a little relief to the pain here, but in truth I don't think it is ever going to go away completely."

Patty McCormick, whose son-in-law, Gerry Scharfenberger, is a former mayor of Middletown, said her reaction to the news late Sunday of Bin Laden was a sudden resurgence of the old anger she felt at the time. "It's better we don't talk about it," the 84-year-old said when approached by a reporter. "The nerve of bringing down those towers. Oh my God. You see, I'm still angry".

Mr Scharfenberger says hearing of Bin Laden's death gave him a "good feeling". He added: "I'm not gong to sugarcoat it. It's good finally triumphing over evil. Then again, I know several of the folks who were killed that day and every week at church I see their kids growing up. That's never going to change."

Among them is Kristen Grazioso whose father's memorial stone she visited on Monday with the balloons. To her there was no doubt that the dispatching of the man who encapsulated all the evil of 9/11 and gave the orders that killed her father was a moment for celebration. "Completely, in every way," she told the local Daily Record newspaper. Indeed she grew up feeling "disgusted" that Bin Laden was still alive and hiding.

"When I found out, I was just so happy. That's what I had been waiting for, for basically 10 years." But even she knows that the pain for her, and the pain Middletown suffered so disproportionately, and for so many other Americans will never be over.

"It's not going to fix what he did, and it's not going to fix everyone," she said.

News
The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised
people
Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

Sport
football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
News
Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister
news

Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and that no-one was arrested

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010
films

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Voices
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'
voices

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Life and Style
The charity Sands reports that 11 babies are stillborn everyday in the UK
lifeEleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, yet no one speaks about this silent tragedy
News
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)
news

Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
Northern soul mecca the Wigan Casino
fashionGone are the punks, casuals, new romantics, ravers, skaters, crusties. Now all kids look the same
Life and Style
gaming

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

News
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Year 5 Teacher

£80 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Year 5 Teacher KS2 teaching job...

Software Developer

£35000 - £45000 Per Annum Pensions Scheme After 6 Months: Clearwater People So...

Systems Analyst / Business Analyst - Central London

£35000 - £37000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Busines...

Senior Change Engineer (Network, Cisco, Juniper) £30k

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...

Day In a Page

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past