Osama bin Laden, mastermind of the September 11, 2001, attacks that claimed almost 3,000 American lives, was killed by U.S. forces in a firefight Sunday inside Pakistan, President Barack Obama announced Sunday.
Listed as America’s most wanted person at the time of his death, bin Laden was also blamed for terrorist attacks in Spain, England and Africa. In communities throughout the world, bin Laden’s rhetoric and acts of violence unified people from a variety of backgrounds against his organization, al Qaeda.
The September 11 attacks prompted worldwide outrage and led to the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, leaving an indelible imprint on the scope and focus of 21st century U.S. foreign policy.
“The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat al Qaeda,” Obama said Sunday. “Justice has been done.”
Joining Americans nationwide, Cornell students celebrated the news of bin Laden’s death, storming College Avenue with American flags, blasting patriotic music out of their windows and setting fireworks off on the Arts Quad and West Campus.
Willy Clark ’12 hoisted an American flag as he led a procession from the Arts Quad to Ho Plaza.
“We’re all proud of being patriots today,” said Clark, who said he started the march of more than 100 people.
Several people drove cars with American flags hanging out the windows, honked their horns and played patriotic tunes late Sunday night.
One student, Sam Hendrickson ’13, drove a pickup truck around campus, waving an American flag while chanting, “USA! USA!”
“We’re celebrating the good news that is handed down today,” Hendrickson said. “This is a great day for freedom, and I am proud to be an American.”
After the news of bin Laden’s death broke, a handful of celebrations began on the streets of Collegetown. A few dozen students, donning an assortment of patriotic gear, marched along College Avenue, cheering and shouting, “USA! USA! USA!”
Joe Hochberg ’12, wearing an American flag coat, led a group of about 20 in singing the National Anthem in front of Rulloff’s as passersby stopped to either join in the celebrations or take pictures of the scene.
Richard Frost ’12, who is a U.S. Army reservist, was celebrating outside a house on College Avenue.
He said he was spending time with a few friends and studying when he learned of the news, which made him “absolutely ecstatic.”
“It’s an enormous emotional and psychological victory for the men and women of the military and the men and women of the U.S.,” said Frost, who, as a reservist, trains with the Army once a month and said he may be deployed to Afghanistan next year. “This is a huge inspiration for every American.”
Impromptu celebrations started on the front lawn of one Collegetown house, but Ithaca Police, responding to a noise complaint, soon broke up the group of about 30.
On North Campus, cheering and screams erupted among the freshman dorms.
“They were playing a tuba [outside Appel Commons] and chanting ‘USA! USA!,’” Meredith Mitnick ’14 said.
News spread across campus as students gathered to watch Obama’s televised announcement and urgently updated their Facebook statuses.
Alexa Hilmer ’13 said she was studying on the third floor of Mann Library when “someone made an announcement: ‘So, everybody, Osama bin Laden’s dead!’”
In Washington, D.C., several Cornell in Washington students heard about a spontaneous rally happening outside the White House and rushed down to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
“It’s incredible what’s going on down there. The crowd is mostly college students, because that’s who is up at this time on a Sunday night,” Sam Ferenc ’12 said. “It was a pretty amazing experience and definitely an opportunity you don’t have in Ithaca.”
Prof. David Patel, government, said bin Laden’s death held special significance for Cornell undergraduates, who came of age at the time of the Sept. 11 attacks.
“Your generation came to consciousness with 9/11 — the vast majority of people who will read this story basically had Osama bin Laden as their bogeyman. They always had to wonder if he’ll rear his ugly head again,” Patel said. “My generation had a vague Communist threat or Cobra from G. I. Joe.”
Cornell and Sept. 11
Just as Cornellians gathered Sunday evening to celebrate bin Laden’s death, in the days following Sept. 11, the Cornell community gathered to commemorate the lives of those who were lost.
On Sept. 16, 2001, University administrators cancelled early afternoon classes and held a memorial service for victims of the attack. More than 12,000 Cornell staff, students, faculty and alumni gathered on the Arts Quad to attend the vigil.
Additionally, administrators collaborated with the University’s office of Alumni Affairs and Development to create a website for Cornellians to let their loved ones know they were alive, and professors hosted a teach-in to provide the community an opportunity for reflection. The American Red Cross hosted blood drives to aid medical responders at various campus locations.
Outreach efforts extended to New York City, where medical students and physicians at Weill Cornell Medical College helped treat more than 500 patients who were injured in the attack.
The Bigger Picture
Looking to the future, Cornell students and professors analyzed the implications of bin Laden’s death.
“This is an important event for Americans emotionally, as bin Laden is seen as the face of the enemy we’ve been fighting for a decade,” said Isaac Todd ’11, director of training for the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps.
Raj Kannappan ’13, chairman of College Republicans, echoed Todd’s sentiments.
“The death of Osama bin Laden holds great symbolic value for Americans and as such, we can rejoice before the reality of the world takes priority,” Kannappan said. “Al Qaeda will still grow and launch attacks against the West, as will its many newly-formed affiliates. The United States should celebrate this victory, but it’s extraordinarily important to recognize that terrorism will still be alive and well.”
Not all students, however, shared the enthusiasm that was pouring out of campus. “I’m glad it happened, but it’s glorified symbolism that cost trillions of dollars and took almost a decade,” Laurie Josephson ’11 said.
“This is bigger for America than it is for the Arab world,” Prof. Patel said. “Hopefully, for your generation, this will be the fall of the Berlin Wall.”
Political activists across campus also predicted the impact of bin Laden’s death on the 2012 elections.
“Today’s a great day for our country, a great day for our president, and we definitely need to congratulate our men and women in uniform … [Bin Laden] was not a leader of Muslims, but a mass murderer of Muslims, as the president said,” Terry Moynihan ’11, outgoing president of the Cornell Democrats, said.
Kannappan expressed concern that bin Laden’s death will likely raise Obama’s poll numbers and make winning the 2012 election more difficult for Republicans.
Regardless of party affiliation, Patel emphasized that all Americans can connect around this victory.
“It’s a game changer, political cover for the U.S. to disengage from that area,” he said. “Americans have not been unified in their hatred of any individual since Adolf Hitler.”
Jeff Stein, Margo Cohen Ristorucci, Akane Otani, Peter Jacobs, Michael Stratford, Dani Neuharth-Keusch and Max Schindler contributed to this report.
Original Author: Sun Staff