A spontaneous celebration broke out in the College of William and Mary Sunken Garden Sunday night in reaction to U.S. President Barack Obama’s announcement that al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed by American forces.
Chants of “U-S-A! U-S-A!,” renditions of America the Beautiful, and firecracker explosions reverberated as approximately 300 students demonstrated their support of the news.
“Justice has been done,” Obama said in a live televised broadcast slightly before midnight May 1.
In his speech, Obama announced that U.S. forces had killed bin Laden near Islamabad, Pakistan, and are in possession of his body. The president provided historical context for the al-Qaeda leader’s death, noting that it occurred nearly ten years after the September 11, 2011 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centers in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., which bin Laden helped to orchestrate.
Obama emphasized that the U.S. is not at war with the Islamic faith, and urged Americans to remain united.
After watching the president’s speech Eric Dale ’14 walked back to his dorm, passing the Sunken Garden and the approximately thirty people assembled there. Reaching his room, he decided to turn around and join the gathering crowd.
“People were streaming into all corners of the Sunken Garden,” Dale said. “I figured I should get back out there with a camera, because I will be kicking myself if I don’t get some photos to remember this. I decided to come back out and do some reveling.”
Dale said that he felt most people were reacting to the news in ways he felt were appropriate.
“I think it’s more important for people to come together and celebrate America than celebrate the death of a man who hated America,” he said.
The assembled students cheered, sang, and displayed American flags. Several students climbed on top of the Pepsi truck remaining on the Sunken Garden from Friday’s Last Day of Classes festivities. One of these students asked for a moment of silence to remember the victims of the September 11 attacks. Another student drove a car onto the field and waved an American flag through the open sunroof, until William and Mary Police officers required him to remove his car from the area.