According to a speech delivered by President Barack Obama late Sunday night, Osama bin Laden, the al Qaeda mastermind responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks against the World Trade Center, has been killed by American ground forces in Pakistan. Bin Laden’s remains have been recovered.
According to Obama, “Justice has been done.” Celebratory crowds gathered around the White House in Washington D.C. and Ground Zero in New York City, and the mood among Knox students was one of mixed shock, happiness and struggle to understand the enormity of the event.
While some students stood in rapt attention watching TV news and texting friends and family, others wrapped themselves in flags and paraded around campus chanting “U.S.A!” and “We kicked Osama’s ass!”
Obama opened his speech with the emphatic statement that, “Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda, and a terrorist who’s responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women and children.”
Knox students dealt with the news Sunday night in a variety of ways, some thoughtfully and others in raucous celebration.
“I’m glad he’s dead, and I thought it was a very good speech,” senior Aaron Palmer said following the conclusion of Obama’s speech. “It’s a very good thing that he is no longer in this world.”
Palmer’s feelings were echoed by others, along with feelings of fear of repercussions, disbelief and surprise.
“I think that when I first heard the news I had a general sense of foreboding because of the troops in Afghanistan and how they are barely able to hold out as it is. Seeing people celebrating in front of the White House was also not a pleasant experience,” sophomore Netsie Tjirongo, a Namibian citizen who has spent many years in the U.S., said just moments after the ending of Obama’s speech.
“I have to say that Obama’s speech calmed me down dramatically,” Tjirongo said.
Opinions varied from person to person, but no one was without any feelings about the matter. “The thing is, I think this is a significant day, but the reaction is going to be very different between different people … For me it just fits in with everything else going on in the rest of the world. For me the reaction just isn’t as strong and as great,” sophomore Lizzy Warner said, expressing her reaction to the speech in the context of media saturation involving the War on Terror.
Warner continued to speak about the reaction within her suite as news of bin Laden’s death unfolded, noting, “No one wanted to turn on the TV. They just wanted to go about their daily lives.”
On the opposite extreme, there were reports of students setting off fireworks near the quads and shouting, “Osama is dead! Osama is dead!”
At about 12:15 a.m. Monday, a dozen or so students marched around Seymour Union shouting “U.S.A.,” reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and shouting, “We kicked Osama’s ass!”
One of the students, junior Elizabeth Deschamps, said, “I’m in the Army and I’m really happy he’s dead.”
There is a great deal of worry among students, though, about whether or not bin Laden may become a martyr. Questions abound about whether his killing will have any lasting international impact.
“If they had just imprisoned him, he would have been powerless somewhere where the United States could hold him. Now he can be almost held up as a martyr. I honestly think that terrorism is the worst thing to happen to the world. I don’t see how this can be rectified any time soon,” Tjirongo said.
Sophomore and International Relations/Political Science double major Grace Lackey felt that it was important to keep in perspective that we do not know a great deal about how this will affect international relations from this point forward. “There’s still Osama’s second in command … The power structure in the Middle East is still there,” Lackey said.
“I definitely think it’s going to make the Middle East a more controversial place,” sophomore Kyle Cruz, a native of the Philippines who now lives in Cambodia, said.
“I know Obama is an American President, but as an international student, I can say I thought his speech was very unbalanced … He talked about families missing people at the dinner table [referring to the families of the victims of the 9/11 attacks] … I don’t want to diminish the loss of people in 9/11, but the American army kills a lot too,” Cruz said.
Former president of the Islamic Club sophomore Hatim Mustaly spoke about Obama’s speech: “To be frank I did not believe him at first, but Obama has made an announcement, so he probably has enough evidence to show the world. But he’s also up for election and did promise this.”