News of Osama Bin Laden’s demise at American hands sent crowds pouring onto the grounds outside the White House, where hundreds instinctively flocked to the site of the president’s address for a raucous celebration.
The crowd was overwhelmingly young, many of them students from DC’s nearby universities who were in grade school on 9/11, creating a frat-like atmosphere as participants chanted “USA!” “Yes We Did!” and sang the national anthem. Many carried American flags or dressed in red, white and blue. The air was pungent with tobacco smoke in places as revelers giddily lit up victory cigars. Some took turns climbing lampposts, drawing huge cheers with each successful attempt.
“Well, Osama would hate that,” one onlooker cracked as a young woman flashed her breasts.
For many, the news of Bin Laden’s death was simply too intense to enjoy alone.
“I didn’t think we’d ever find him,” one misty-eyed defense contractor told TPM as he carried a giant flag. “I saw the news flash and just wanted to join Americans in celebration.”
“Better late than never, right?” Mike Martinez, an Iraq veteran who came with another member of his unit, Josh Carnes.
“We got him,” Carnes said. “This is awesome!”
Salmaa Elshanshory, 23, a Muslim-American from Dallas, wore a grin that refused to quit as she navigated the crowd.
“I just grabbed a bus and came as soon as I found out,” she said.”The symbol of hate has been killed and that’s amazing. I’m scared of retaliations, but I think this is a beautiful day, it’s a uniting day…I’m here celebrating that the symbol who hijacked our religion is dead.”
Aubri O’Connor, 28, arrived in her red Washington Capitals jersey, one of dozens who came from the playoff hockey game at the Verizon Center — a loss — to the White House.
“We were all drowning our sorrows about the game,” she told TPM. “Then the news hit and really put things in perspective.”
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.