Mirroring larger gatherings across the country, Yalies throughout the college celebrated Sunday night after hearing the news that terrorist Osama Bin Laden was killed that day.
Starting with the news that President Barack Obama would make a statement on the death, students across campus gathered to watch the President explain that Bin Laden had been killed in a firefight with United States forces. Following the news, and despite impending exams, portions of the student body erupted in jubilee, while others chose to mull over the announcement more calmly.
As the news broke in the Branford Library, a student caught up in the moment was shushed by his studious peers when he yelled, “Bin Laden is dead!”
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In Davenport, students in the dining hall were initially confused by commotion coming from other parts of the college around 10:30 p.m. All was explained, however, when a student ran in the room and announced to everyone present that Osama Bin Laden was dead. Quickly, almost one hundred people gathered in the Davenport Dive, waiting for Obama to officially confirm what they had been told.
Davenport students watched Obama’s address in complete silence with varying expressions — anywhere from joy to disbelief to satisfaction. With the president’s final God blessing of the United States, a uniform applause began.
Similarly, almost thirty people gathered in the Calhoun buttery to hear the unexpected news.
“I think it’s a wonderful cathartic moment for the United States,” William Redden ’14 said.
AJ Riggs ’11 was planning on playing frisbee on Old Campus when he and a friend were told Bin Laden had been killed. Though they went ahead with their plans, they also were able to simultaneously listen to Obama’s speech since a student was playing it loudly in Durfee Hall suite.
Following the address, many students departed from their respective residential colleges and headed for Old Campus where the celebration was beginning. The area was relatively quiet around 11:30 p.m., but the group — which initially began as a crowd of about ten mostly male students — quickly began to grow in size.
Less than an hour later, around eighty students were gathered in the middle of Old Campus. They sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” and other patriotic songs, vuvuzelas began to echo between the freshmen dormitories, and United States flags could be seen everywhere.
“I am so glad he is dead,” Shuaib Raza ’14 said. “It’s a great day for all of America.”
Still, some students were more reflective than excited.
Sebastian Koochaki ’14 was glad to hear Bin Laden had been killed but also expressed concerns with respect to a possible violent backlash to his death.
“I think killing him may hurt more American troops,” Koochaki said.
Randy Spock ’11 said that though he understood the excitement, he had a different initial reaction.
“Killing Bin Laden just brings back memories of the terrible event that forced us to look for him,” Spock said, referring to the events of September 11, 2001, which Bin Laden was responsible for orchestrating.
While students continued to belt out renditions of “God Bless America,” “We Are The Champions,” and “Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye),” two German graduate students, Manuel Clemens GRD ’13 and Marc Petersdorff GRD ’15, observed the commotion at a safe distance from the crowd. They said they were a little befuddled about the celebration, but also compared it to an event that, though in most ways was very different, had some similar celebratory strands — the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
“I can definitely understand the liberating sense that is beautiful about it,” Petersdorff said, but added, “Rejoicing over the mere disappearance of a human being is not necessarily the solution to the problem.”
Soon the crowd on Old Campus shifted toward Beinecke Plaza where the celebration continued. Students stood in front of the flag pole, continuing to wave their personal flags, and joined in yet another rendition of the national anthem. Three students drove around the plaza and Cross Campus on a moped.
“I’m just proud of my country,” said Luke Hawbaker ’13, at Beinecke Plaza, watching the festivities.
Eventually, the crowd dispersed as people returned to the studies.
Bin Laden was killed in a city close to the Pakistani capital of Islamabad.