Campus celebrates, reflects on Bin Laden’s death

Photo by Josh Satok.

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!”

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.


  • zjkil9

    Leave it to the Germans to be rational and sane about the whole thing…

  • roflairplane

    President Obama: “His demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity.” C’mon, Yale.

  • Hieronymus’ Bosh


    What are we, some third-world nation? Has Obama’s secret desire to lower the stature/significance/std-of-living (what he would call “arrogance”) of this country finally come to fruition?

    I am not decrying the actions, per se (although I hope the mission falls under “military action” and not “assassination”), at least not yet; however, to see Americans celebrating in the streets, as if Bin Laden had some lasting power over the US, as if this one man was of actual significance to this great nation is truly alarming. The pictures of celebration are of the sort usually seen in West-hating nations when a bomb goes of in some Israeli or German cafe…

    Very disheartening. And at Yale, too.

  • RexMottram08

    I celebrate because it is just and good to celebrate justice. An evil man who murdered thousands is dead. Rejoice!

  • Jaymin

    @ H. Bosh

    Really? You’re taking issue with us celebrating the death of the world’s most reviled fugitive? Regardless of his power as a single individual, he certainly was a significant global figure for obvious historic reasons. He was a common foe (except to you, I guess), and his death presents as a optimistic unifying force. And celebration is not reserved for “west-hating nations”; I’m not sure how you made this determination. We do it every 4th of July or every time World Wars end or when we land on a moon or when Michael Phelps wins more gold. Are you really that much of a twat as to claim that Americans shouldn’t celebrate milestones as a people?

    And to those who are uncomfortable with “celebrating death”, don’t be – all death is not sad, especially when the victim deserved no life. However attached we are to the aesthetic of respecting all life, we should be free to recognize that some individuals, through the content of their character and the blade of their actions, have lesser claim to it.

  • redman

    Bosh said:
    “as if this one man was of actual significance to this great nation is truly alarming”

    So killing 3,000 Americans is not significant enough for you?

  • penny_lane

    I’m with Hieronymus. Bin Laden, though an enemy, was no Wicked Witch of the East whose death solves all our problems. The War on Terror is not over. Celebration is premature and in poor taste.

  • anon

    @Jaymin…. do you really place last night (and Michael Phelps’s victories) on the same list as 4th of July or the end of a World War? How is your life different today than it was yesterday?

  • Woland

    Nobody’s claiming the War on Terror is over. But there’s nothing wrong with celebrating the fact that justice has been done to a mass murderer.

  • Jaymin

    The War on Terror will never be over. Eventually, we will withdraw troops, but special operations will still continually be in place, assisting the Afghans and Pakistanis with the decades-long process of rooting out new extremists threats. Is it really too much to ask that we be allowed to celebrate milestones along this long and burdensome path? Is there no regard for morale, for reinvigorating a nation, for simply finding an excuse to lean across the political aisle for a celebratory hug?

  • Jaymin


    The point was that Americans can celebrate large or small events and not “lower our stature to that of a third world country”. I simply thought it was a stupid and nonsensical claim that flag-waving and USA-cheering are characteristics of lesser people.

  • River Tam

    > Celebration is premature

    Celebration is always premature, but this is simply part of the human condition.

  • theAvenger

    I wish this were an elementary school classroom, so that I could throw my eraser at River Tam for being such an pretentious hag.

  • roflairplane

    @Jaymin: Many Yalies consider themselves too good for patriotism. Lots of “citizens of the world” on campus.

  • rr22

    Am I the only one who found the celebrations in New York and Washington extremely distasteful? As an American, I’m very happy that Bin Laden was taken care of because of the horrible attacks he masterminded. But…. we are in the middle of a very sensitive war which is far from over. It is not New Year’s Eve, nor did we win the World Cup. This is not a party. This event should be treated with solemn satisfaction rather than acting like we’re at a fraternity party.

  • Jaymin


    So that I can better understand where you’re coming from, can you tell me who this is distasteful towards and why they would be upset at our partying?

  • yalebird

    There’s nothing wrong with celebrating justice, but there is something wrong with celebrating death.

    Personally, I would have been happy if bin Laden had been captured rather than killed. This way, all we proved is that we’re better than he is in a shooting contest.

    There’s a measure of catharsis insofar as he’s no longer a threat, sure. But I wouldn’t call myself happy, nor would I be comfortable dancing on any person’s grave.

  • yalie13
  • Jaymin

    The problem I have with that Salon article and other similar sentiments is that is essentially equates our killing of Bin Laden with the terrorists’ killings of their victims. There is such thing as context and perspective. However relativist this sounds, there is something fundamentally different between celebrating the death of a truly evil man and celebrating the death of innocent civilians. What we did to Osama is not comparable to what he did to us.

    Ultimately, there is nothing sad about Bin Laden’s death; we are not barbarians for rejoicing that a man who deserves no dignity or respect is finally gone from this world; we can admit that certain deaths like this are for the betterment of humanity and therefore worth celebrating.

  • BaruchAtta

    “…Am I the only one who found the celebrations in New York and Washington extremely distasteful?…”

    Yes. And yes. You obviously do not understand people. Take some courses, do some research.

    At your age, you should not have solidified opinions on anything.

    I’m glad that you are attending Yale and will be stuck in some low-paying menial paper-pushing job in your future. Hate to see you have any real responsibility.

  • rr22

    can you please elaborate on your comments?

  • roflairplane

    @rr22: The United States would be better off if you were not here.

  • rr22

    @roflairplane why do you say that?

  • Branford73

    Perhaps if you lived in NYC or the DC area at the time you would know someone who was killed or whose parent, sibling or child was killed and you would have been personally terrorized by having your city attacked with exploding airliners. Then you might have a little more understanding why people in those cities are elated that a man who planned the attack and after it happened gloated and laughed at its success has been killed by our purposeful military action.

  • alum2001

    Nice to see Yalies coming together in a pro-American spirit, for a change! Nice piece.

  • peacenik

    I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” –MLK Jr.

  • jnewsham

    Martin Luther King, Jr. never actually said that.

    “Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet.” –Abraham Lincoln

  • gradstudent2

    I didn’t find the celebrations distasteful. I do, however, understand being perplexed and feeling a little outside of a moment shared by many others. I too was happy that bin Laden was dead, but didn’t accompany my husband when he went out to celebrate. I think that people just have different ways of processing this pivotal historical moment.

  • penny_lane

    Newsham, all but the first sentence are indeed the words of MLK.

  • Jaymin


    Unfortunately, only the first sentence actually had any meaning.

    “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

    Whoop de doo. However poetic, this is just pointless fluff. It’s really easy to look down from the ivory tower and regurgitate meaningless pablum about “love” and “light” to condemn military actions (as if stupidly naive quotes somehow offered empirical wisdom on policy) , but when it comes to reality, it took bloodshed to win the revolutionary war and even more bloodshed to defeat Hitler. Things aren’t as black and white as a quote makes them out to be.

  • kit

    The act of celebrating a human being’s death is morally questionable, but I think it’s possible to excuse this misstep if we merely think about the amount of lives Osama Bin Laden has filled with fear, hatred, and anxiety. Of course celebration would be the first reaction. My first reaction was happiness and disbelief, like many others. I didn’t join the celebration, but I didn’t think badly of those that did either – maybe that they went on a little too long while I was trying to finish up a paper. But who can blame them. Whether they know someone who has personally suffered or not, we have all been affected by the legacy of 9/11. Humans do not always think logically when their emotions are being pulled in the opposite direction. Excuse them this, move on, and realize that this could be a moment of construction and not destruction. I think the most important element was one mentioned in Obama’s speech – let’s not let this spiral into anti-Muslim hatred (though many Muslims participated in the celebration – Osama has certainly not bettered their lives by making ignorant Americans brand them as the face of evil). Other than that, I say let the people have their non-destructive celebration. Logic can come after the rush of energy that followed Osama’s fall.

  • silliwin01

    I think Osama forfeited his humanity long ago.

  • rhedbobbin

    We’ve killed far more civilians in our “war on terror” than Osama ever did.

  • harbinger

    “We’ve killed far more civilians in our “war on terror” than Osama ever did.”

    So you suggest we should have given him the chance to even the score?

  • dalet5770

    So there is a higher power in charge of dicks – A watery grave

  • rhedbobbin

    Ten years is a pretty good chance. I guess we gave him that. Your point is what? We should ignore the massive amount of causalities *we’ve* inflicted on others as well as ourselves?

    In any case, not much chance to even the score without all the bombs and drones and planes and soldiers we managed to toss into the slaughter. U-S-A.

  • Arafat

    The real world versus the Yale world as represented by many of the comments written above: