A saga that began when many Duke students were still in middle school reached a sudden conclusion late last night.
Leader of al Qaeda and international face of terrorism Osama bin Laden was killed in an operation led by a small assault team of American forces.
Bin Laden, the man behind the Sept. 11 attacks and approximately 3,000 American deaths, died in a raid led by a U.S. forces, President Barack Obama said in a speech late Sunday night.
“Justice has been done,” Obama announced.
Duke students celebrated the news with fireworks along Towerview Drive and on Main Quad, though many students remained in the library due to upcoming exams.
“He’s dead?” sophomore Won Song said. “We were studying, so we didn’t know.”
Some students, however, took a break from studying to watch Obama’s announcement and subsequent news reports.
Other students were more vocal and enthusiastic about bin Laden’s death, taking the opportunity to reconnect with family and friends over Sept. 11—an event that defined a generation.
“As soon as I heard, I ran to the nearest TV and called my parents and military friends,” senior Bryan Gomez said.
Students from the New York and Washington, D.C. areas also felt a particular connection to the events. Sophomore Cynthia Moffitt, a New York resident, said bin Laden’s death had a way of putting things in perspective, especially during an otherwise stressful finals week.
This unexpected turn of events sparked a resurgence of patriotism for many on campus, including for sophomore Jane Riddle.
“It’s a great day to be an American,” Riddle said.
Duke employees reacted similarly to Obama’s announcement, as McDonald’s employee Julia Cazares said she was happy, especially for all of the families affected by the Sept. 11 attacks.
Across campus, approximately 20 members of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity toasted to the success of the American-led operation in Pakistan.
“To America!” the brothers chanted, raising Yuengling beers in unison.
Sophomore Benton Wise, a member of the fraternity, noted that although the news was cause for celebration, students would be remiss not to acknowledge the sacrifices made, including the many lives lost, in order to take down the head of al Qaeda.
Even among the celebrations, students were not entirely free from the somber tone which was also apparent in Obama’s address.
“I feel out of place celebrating the death of a person, regardless of who it is,” freshman Ashley McCormick said.
Although the impromptu presidential announcement interrupted some students’ studying, most said they will not soon forget this historical milestone.
“I’ve been waiting for this since I was 11,” junior John Pennington said. “I’ve been waiting for this night for a long time. We’re all just out here on the bench reflecting on the night.”