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Local Reaction to Bin Laden Killing: "Sense of Closure"

Reflecting on Alan Beaven, environmental lawyer who died on 9/11 and worked in Half Moon Bay on water quality issues.

Last night, President Obama spoke to the nation with the news that after almost 10 years in pursuit of Osama bin Laden -- the man acknowledged to be behind the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks -- U.S. special forces have killed bin Laden in Pakistan.

Reactions came quickly from city leaders and from a resident who worked closely in Half Moon Bay for over six years with one of 9/11's casualties, Alan Beaven of Oakland.

"I am hopeful that today’s events may bring some sense of closure...overall, it’s a great day for the United States," Half Moon Bay City Councilmember Rick Kowalczyk said last night.

Half Moon Bay City Councilmember  Marina Fraser said "I hope we can now bring home the troops, celebrate them and their sacrifices and concentrate on rebuilding America."

"My thoughts are with the families that lost loved ones on 9/11, especially the children that lost parents," Kowalczyk said.

Among the children who lost a parent were Beaven's offspring. A passenger on United Flight 93 originally scheduled to fly from Newark to San Francisco, Beaven, along with a few others on board, successfully diverted the hijacked plane from what was believed to be the terrorists' intended destination  -- Washington, D.C. -- by confronting them at the front of the plane near the cockpit area. The plane crashed in Pennyslvania, killing all on board.

As an environmental attorney, Beaven worked on cases throughout the Bay Area focused on water quality, including those in Half Moon Bay as Chief Legal Counsel for the nonprofit organization Save Our Bay (also known as the Half Moon Bay Coastside Foundation) from 1996 until his death.

Oscar Braun, co-founder of Save Our Bay and a Half Moon Bay resident, reflected last night upon the news of bin Laden's death. "I'm very proud of our nation and grateful for that wonderful group of soldiers who have been fighting for us," Braun said. "I’m so glad they’ve retrieved his body...it’s a perfect way to bring closure," he said.

"Our organization's work since 9/11 has been dedicated to Alan's living legacy for the vast majority of what we do," Braun said. "How we do it is based upon Alan's philosophy and learning about environmental laws and the Clean Water Act -- he educated us about that." 

Starting in late 1996 until Beaven's death, the two worked on the water quality protection program for the watersheds of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. One case particularly appears to stand out in Braun's mind: Working with Braun, Beaven successfully filed suit against the Sewer Authority Mid-Coastside to expand its sewer system to accommodate greater use and capacity, and prevent sewage overflows.

A shared love of the water initiated their friendship and work together. "I educated him about all things scuba diving," Braun said, who has scuba dived around the world. According to Braun, he and Beaven first met when Beaven was looking for a place to take his then 16-year-old son scuba diving.

Asked what he thought Beaven's reaction would be if he found out that bin Laden had been killed, Braun ponders the question. "Vindictiveness isn't something that is in him...he would have focused on forgiveness. I don't think he had it in him to hold any malice," he said.

Braun said that Beaven had been planning to travel to India with his wife and daughter for a sabbatical not long after his flight back to California on Sept. 11. "He was deeply involved in meditation," Braun said.

"You never really stop grieving," Braun said of Beaven's death. "I know that we haven't."

Avis Boutell May 02, 2011 at 02:05 PM
I feel great gratitude for the men and women in the armed services and the intelligence community who have worked tirelessly and anonymously for years, beginning even before 9/11, to protect our nation and defeat bin Laden. I share the President's expression of hope that our nation will find a new sense of unity in the future.

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