Tulsa math teacher who lost son in Sept. 11 attacks numbed by news of bin Laden's death
BY ANDREA EGER World Staff Writer
Monday, May 02, 2011
5/02/11 at 12:48 PM
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News of Osama bin Laden’s death brought back the numbness that Tommie Milam described feeling toward the terrorists in the days after 9/11.
The high school math teacher lost his son, Army Maj. Ronald Milam when American Airlines Flight 77 struck the Pentagon nearly 10 years ago. Ronald Milam was in the Pentagon when the plane crashed into it.
“I had just gotten into bed. I had the TV on when I heard that bin Laden had been killed. I was literally stunned by it. I was numb,” Tommie Milam told the Tulsa World on Monday morning from his classroom at Webster High School.
The emotions that the 10 p.m. news stirred inside him kept him awake another three hours.
“It wasn’t long before I saw all of the people gathering at the capital. They were overjoyed. I didn’t feel that jubilance because I have a picture of my son in my room. I looked at him. I felt good that it happened, but I didn’t feel the joy the people felt. I was too numb to feel the excitement.”
At the time of his death, Ronald Milam was a 33-year-old career Army officer working as an assistant to the secretary of the Army. He was the husband of an Air Force captain who was pregnant at the time, and already father to the couple's 15-month-old daughter.
Talk about bin Laden’s death finally bringing “closure” to 9/11 rang hollow with Milam’s father.
In 2001, Tommie Milam was a teacher at Edison Preparatory School. He subsequently retired, but a few years later, returned to teaching at Webster.
“I heard the president speak and watched the people celebrating outside. My anxiety level rose so high. The tension built and I couldn’t go to sleep until about 1:00,” he said Monday. “They talked about the closure, and maybe I should have felt closure, but it wasn’t. For the people who actually lost someone very close to them, they don’t really see it that way. I couldn’t be excited about it because I lost my son and I love him so dearly. It brought back a lot of emotions.”
Milam was still processing those emotions when he stopped at a QuikTrip for his Monday morning cup of coffee on the way to school.
“There was a guy back there by the coffee and I said, ‘Happy Death of Bin Laden Day.’ He looked at me and said, ‘Yeah, it’s good that they got him.' That made me feel a little bit better,” he said.
Milam said it was also comforting to think about how proud his son would have been of his military comrades who executed Sunday’s strike on bin Laden’s Pakistani hideout.
“I take my hat off to President Barack Obama for his dedication to go through with this thing,” he said. “When they first were talking about going into Iraq in 2003, it upset me. I said I wish they wouldn’t go into Iraq because they needed to go into Afghanistan and get the people who killed my son and all of these other people.
Army Maj. Ronald Milam