Nearly ten years after the September 11 attacks and America’s subsequent invasion of Afghanistan, a U.S. Special Forces team has killed the most wanted man in the world, Osama bin Laden.
President Obama announced last night that the mastermind behind the attacks that killed thousands was shot to death yesterday during a U.S. raid of his compound in Pakistan.
News of his death was followed by spontaneous celebrations Sunday night in cities across the U.S. In New York, the outpouring of emotions was most prominent in Times Square and at the intersection of Vesey Street and Park near Ground Zero.
“New Yorkers have waited nearly 10 years for this news,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a statement.
Hundreds packed the corner of the World Trade Center site; many carried American flags, which were passed through the crowd to whoever occupied the highest vantage points.
Ted Caruso and his friend PJ Ransone, both of Brooklyn, stood atop a telephone booth. Caruso waved a large American flag in swooping arcs above the heads of those below. “Somebody juts handed this up to us because we were on high ground,” Ransone said.
Her body illuminated by the flash of dozens of cameras, Tatiana Tyloska, a 19-year-old NYU student, clung to the stoplight and screamed at the crowds. Someone shouted, “Show your tits for freedom,” and Tyloska pulled up her T-shirt to reveal her bra and the letters USA drawn in red marker across her stomach. The spectators cheered.
“I love America!” Tyloska said after she returned safely to earth. “I felt like this would unite us as a mob.”
The scene was generally one of unabashed jubilation. College and high school-age kids sprinted through the throngs, screaming “USA.” Every few minutes someone would start an encore rendition of “God Bless America,” accompanied on the bagpipes by Captain Patrick Dowdell, a 28-year-old infantryman who’s father Kevin, a fireman, was killed when the towers collapsed.
Beer bottles littered the pavement as local bars in the area emptied. A man in a tiger fur coat and cowboy boots stood watching young men with Marine Corps flags scale nearby business storefronts and the roofs of unlucky cars, with one man shimmying his way to the end of the light pole, his arms outstretched fifteen feet above the screaming crowd.
At about 2 a.m., someone took a boom box and blasted rapper Jay-Z’s New York anthem “Empire State of Mind” to general applause. Dressed in a red, white and blue striped shirt and matching bandana, the stereo’s owner Brandon Eaves, 27, of Bushwick, Brooklyn said he first learned of bin Laden’s death when his mother sent him a text message.
“Especially in New York, where so many people were affected, this is a pretty important event,” he said. As Eaves talked, his roommate, Zoe Weisman, 26, zigzagged through the spectators, showing off her American-flag jumpsuit.
“My onesie, it’s incredible, right?” Weisman shouted, “I’ve been waiting for Osama to die so I can wear this.”
The joy was cut by somber moments. One young man recorded a message into his cell phone as he ran, “This is for everyone who didn’t come home,” he said.
Standing off to the side watching the, Staff Sergeant John Gould shook his head in amazement. The National Guardsman was here on Sept. 11, 2001 and he served in both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
“For me, as a soldier, this is a monumental day,” he said. “I’m not saying anything ended with Osama, but it’s a milestone.”
Dressed in a camouflage jacket and Yankees cap, Gould said he was happy to be here, at “the catalyst.”
“Am I happy? Most definitely. We lost a lot of friends over there, especially in Afghanistan. This is something we can say to our friends who didn’t come home: it wasn’t for nothing.”
In another corner three candles and a bouquet of carnations stood beside a piece of cardboard with a short message: “Dedicated to all those who fought, suffered and died to bring us this moment. Your sacrifice will not be forgotten. September 11, 2001 – May 1, 2011.”