President Barack Obama announced at 11:35 p.m. Sunday the death of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, the public face behind the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
Bin Laden was killed Sunday in a firefight in Abbottabad, Pakistan during an authorized CIA operation.
Obama addressed the implications for the United States in a speech delivered from the East Room of the White House as students watched in excitement.
"Everyone remembers exactly where they were on Sept. 11, and everyone should remember where they were tonight,” Penn Democrats President and College sophomore Isabel Friedman said.
While Friedman said bin Laden's death is "a credit to President Obama's national security efforts," she emphasized that the event should not divide students along party lines. “This is an accomplishment for Obama, but also an accomplishment for America — no longer which party you are associated with."
"I think it's pivotal that the person who committed the greatest terrorist attack in America's history is done justice and that's what today presents," College Republicans President and College junior Charles Gray said.
"The credit should be taken mostly by the armed forces but also by the leaders — that includes President Obama and President Bush as well," added Gray, a Daily Pennsylvanian columnist.
In the midst of studying for finals, which begin Monday, about 50 students gathered in Mark’s Cafe to listen to the announcement. Students also gathered around television sets in Huntsman Hall and in the College Houses.
“The fact that so many people watched despite finals speaks to how unified and patriotic we are,” Wharton freshman Alice Liu said.
Students were visibly excited, cheering and clapping as Obama came on the screen. College sophomore Jon Monfred waved an American flag as students shouted “America, America!” and “We got him! We got him!”
The celebration continued following the conclusion of the speech, though it died down quickly, as students immediately went back to studying.
Though Obama and White House officials did not initially specify the subject of the sudden announcement, news of bin Laden’s death circulated quickly over social networking sites prior to articles from large media outlets or firm confirmation from White House officials.
“[It’s] crazy that I learned about this on Facebook and Twitter, but I’m really proud to be an American,” Nursing sophomore Tori LaMaina said.
“Even though I’m a foreigner, I can see how much 9/11 shaped our generation," College junior Andres Saborio added. “Seeing everyone take a break from studying shows how much of a big deal this is."
Next September will mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Several campus groups, including the College Republicans, have already begun to plan commemorative events.
For Gray, bin Laden's death marks "a momentous event in American history." He added that the upcoming anniversary of 9/11 will be an opportunity to "reflect on the last 10 years."
See our complete online archives from September 12, 2001 here.
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