EPHRATA, Wash. — A middle school teacher vowed after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, that he would not shave his beard until Osama bin Laden was caught.
Gary Weddle kept his word Sunday evening.
"I spent my first five minutes crying and then I couldn't get it off fast enough," Weddle, 50, told the Capital Press.
Weddle, who lives in East Wenatchee and teaches in Ephrata, had wanted to cut his beard for years. The gray stringy growth actually made him look a bit like bin Laden, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks who was killed by U.S. forces.
Weddle was a substitute teacher in Wenatchee when the terrorist attacks occurred on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, killing some 3,000 people.
Weddle said he was so absorbed in the news that he neglected to shave. A week or so later, he decided not to shave until bin Laden was captured or proven dead. He figured it would just be a month or two.
At the start of each school year, Weddle told students the beard was a reminder of the attacks.
After all these years, Weddle figured he'd still be wearing the beard next Sept. 11, the 10th anniversary of the attacks.
He was working in his garden Sunday evening when news came that bin Laden was dead.
Weddle wasted no time finding scissors and razors. He had cut the beard and was shaving the stubble before President Obama addressed the nation.
Friends and neighbors watched him cut the beard. He cut himself while shaving for the first time in 3,454 days.
Weddle was 41 when he made his vow.
"I wanted him to get rid of it, but it was his vow," his wife Donita said. "I respected his passion and keeping a vow. I was willing to look past the beard because I love him."
Now she said her husband looks 10 years younger.
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"It's a very happy moment for us," she said. "It's a very happy moment for the whole nation."