News that al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden died in a firefight today has brought satisfaction and peace for some Bay Area policymakers.

“Anyone who witnessed the events of 9/11 wanted to see a day of justice. This is that day,” said Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo.

Bin Laden, the man behind the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center towers in New York, was pronounced dead by President Obama in a late-night speech delivered from the White House’s East Room.

“The images of 9/11 are seared into our national memory–hijacked planes cutting through a cloudless September sky; the Twin Towers collapsing to the ground; black smoke billowing up from the Pentagon,” Obama said.

He said the terrorist leader had been killed in a U.S. military-organized firefight in Pakistan today.

“That he’s dead is part of the healing process,” said Harold Schapelhouman, chief at the Menlo Park Fire Protection District. “But it really won’t change what was done. This doesn’t turn back the clock.”

Each year, district officials have been placing 343 American flags in honor of each firefighter that was killed in the Sept. 11 rescue effort, Schapelhouman said.

He said it’s unclear if the district will do anything to honor bin Laden’s death.

“In the short term, this is a win for President Obama,” said Larry Gerston, a political science professor at San Jose State University.

“But a year from now, people won’t be thinking about what happened tonight. They’ll be thinking about the economy and about unemployment,” he said.

Gerston said he expects Bay Area agencies to be on heightened alert for acts of terrorism in the coming days and months.

“Something we know about al-Qaida is that they don’t necessarily give tit-for-tat the day after an event,” he said. “If anything, this news will lead people to be more vigilant during the months to come, in the least.”

San Francisco International Airport officials have not made any changes to security or flights in light of tonight’s news, according to airport spokesman Michael McCarron.

A dispatcher at the U.S. Coast Guard in San Francisco was unaware of any planned restrictions on waterways as of 9:30 p.m.

Saul Sugarman, Bay City News

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