Saunders

Saunders: Yes, the world's a better place, but losses still hurt

Staff WriterMay 3, 2011 

Hell naw, we ain't even.

But this is a good start.

Every American, even those who didn't participate in the impromptu celebrations that filled the nation's cities Sunday night, can surely understand the dancing-in-the-streets jubilation that greeted news that Osama bin Laden had been killed by Navy SEALs.

No one can think, though, that the death of one mass murderer is a palliative to the souls of Americans stunned by the deaths of the 3,000 people who perished on9/11, or the 3,400 U.S. servicemen and -women who've since died in combat in wars sparked by his terrorism, can they?

John Eakes of Apex doesn't think we're even, despite exulting "I'm a happy S.O.B." over bin Laden's death.

Eakes' joy over bin Laden's demise is tempered by the death of his own son in a war bin Laden helped precipitate.

"Nothing will ever make up for losing Lance," he said. "I still go to my son's grave every day."

Lance Oliver Eakes was killed April 18, 2008, while on combat patrol with the N.C. National Guard in Baghdad. He was 25.

"Dadgum right, I'm glad that S.O.B.'s dead," Eakes said of the international exporter of terrorism. "I personally wish they had captured him alive and brought him back here so I could've shot him. He was the most significant reason my son joined the National Guard."

Before Lance joined the Guard, he was a student and instructor at Chris Tricoli's martial arts academy, the Raleigh Institute of Martial Arts. He specialized in Muay Thai.

Unlike Eakes, who said he was "up all night long watching" news reports on bin Laden's death, Tricoli didn't learn about it until I called him Monday morning around 10.

"I was out in the field" Sunday training soldiers in martial arts, Tricoli explained. "When I got home last night I crashed around 9:30."

Tricoli's response, though, was the same as most Americans', albeit somewhat subdued.

"Cool. How'd they get him?" I told him about how the Navy SEALS reportedly stormed a compound in Pakistan and terminated the al-Qaida figurehead.

"Cool."

Tricoli initially said he was reluctant to talk about Lance Eakes because, he said, "I only knew one portion of his world, the fighter portion."

Turns out that's not entirely true, since Tricoli also knew the tender, caring part of his friend. "I suffered a spinal cord injury, and Lance lived with me and helped take care of me," he said.

"That's just what kind of person he was," John Eakes said of his son.

Tricoli's body has healed, and he has resumed his career as a master-level instructor teaching martial arts to civilians as well as military and secret service personnel. Bin Laden's death, though, won't heal the hurt caused by the loss of his friend, a loss he is reminded of each day he walks past the memorial to his friend he has set up at his academy.

Tell Barry what you think at 919-836-2811 or email him at www.barry.saunders@newsobserver.com.

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