OU Students React to Bin Laden’s Death
Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 Americans, was killed Sunday in a covert U.S. strike, President Barack Obama announced Sunday night.
“A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability,” Obama said in a televised statement from the East Room of the White House. “They took care to avoid civilian casualties. After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.”
Less than an hour after the news broke, hundreds of D.C. residents were gathered outside the White House, blowing noisemakers, chanting “U.S.A.” and waving signs.
“Justice has been done,” Obama said.
Upon learning the news, Ohio University students took to the streets to celebrate the end of a 10-year manhunt that began during President George W. Bush’s tenure and ended almost three years into the Obama presidency.
Students descended on Mill Street, Palmer Street and Court Street decked out in red, white and blue, roaring chants and singing the national anthem and other patriotic songs.
“My first thought was to go home, grab my American flag and go back uptown,” said Justin Farmer, a senior studying civil engineering who was working at the Pub when he heard the news. Farmer went bar-to-bar with friends, waving a 4×6 American flag until the Uptown bars closed at 2 a.m.
Chris Teodori, a senior studying finance, first read the news on Twitter, then on Facebook before heading to the CI to celebrate.
“I was really shocked. It had been so long since [bin Laden] had been in the news and I didn’t expect it happen,” he said, adding that his father had served in the U.S. Marine Corps. “I feel very proud to be an American.”
Jason Chiappino, a junior studying video production, likened the evening’s events to the end of World War II.
“I wonder if this is how our grandparents felt [when Japan surrendered],” he said.
Al Qaeda previously claimed responsibility for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing that killed six, two 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in East Africa that resulted in more than 300 deaths and the 2000 attack of the USS Cole that killed 17 American sailors at a port in Yemen. Al Qaeda recruiters were also linked to the Nov. 2009 shooting at Fort Hood military base that left 13 people dead, and the failed “Underwear bomber” incident that occurred in Dec. 2009, during which a passenger attempted to detonate plastic explosives — located in his underwear — while on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, Michigan.
In the televised statement Sunday, Obama said his national security team had briefed him last August “on a possible lead to bin Laden” — a mansion outside Islamabad, Pakistan, in a town called Abbottabad, where the U.S. believed bin Laden was hiding.
After numerous meetings with national security staff that occurred over the past several weeks, Obama authorized an attack on the compound early Sunday morning. Former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton were informed of bin Laden’s death Sunday evening.
“No Americans were harmed [in the strike],” Obama said, noting that Pakistani intelligence officials helped lead the U.S. to bin Laden.
Some OU students had mixed feelings about the demise of the terrorist leader who had been the public face of Al Qaeda for decades.
“I feel pride, but also trepidation,” said Kevin Flanigan, a senior majoring in English pre-law.
“I’m worried about what the response will be [from terrorists overseas],” he said. “But for the moment it feels nice.”
Although Al Qaeda had a history of attacking Americans overseas, the U.S. was caught off-guard when 19 Al Qaeda terrorists hijacked four commercial airliners on 9/11, crashing two into the New York City Twin Towers, one into the Pentagon in Washington and another that crashed in rural Pennsylvania when passengers tried to take back the plane from hijackers, who had redirected the plane toward Washington.
The planes that hit the Twin Towers downed the buildings within hours, killing thousands. It marked the worst terrorist attack on American soil in the nation’s history, and led the U.S. into war with Afghanistan. Soon after, U.S. forces entered Iraq to depose of its president, Saddam Hussein, under pretense that Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and was secretly aiding Al Qaeda.
Despite the death of bin Laden, both wars (plus a continued presence in Libya) and U.S. efforts to end terrorism will continue, Obama warned.
“[Bin Laden’s] death does not mark the end of our effort. There’s no doubt that al Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us. We must — and we will — remain vigilant at home and abroad,” the president said.
Josh Smith, a senior studying political science pre law, returned to the U.S. in July 2010 after serving for a year in Afghanistan as a part of the 497 Military Police Company.
Smith began celebrating with his Phi Tau fraternity brothers immediately after hearing the news.
“It took 10 years, but we finally got him,” Smith said. However, he added that he feared some students might take news of bin Laden’s death for granted.
“This doesn’t end the war,” he said, adding that, “I want people to remember that there are still troops over there.”
They are still fighting and they aren’t coming home yet.”
Executive Copy Editor Kayla Carpenter contributed reporting.
Photos by Art Director Annie Scheltens and Associate Editor Devin Bartolotta.