News Editor, The Pendulum
Students contacted one another through Facebook, Twitter, phone calls, text messages and shouting to one another in the residence halls. Following Obama’s speech about the fall of bin Laden, celebrations originating in Danieley Center turned into a circuitous march with hundreds of supporters.
Students in Danieley Center set off fireworks shortly following Obama’s speech and the excitement soon calmed down. But sophomore Elizabeth Floyd said energy remained high and she and her friends got into sophomore Joe Ziemba’s car to drive around campus with the windows open, shouting and singing patriotic songs.
“It felt like a burden I didn’t realize was on my shoulders was gone,” Floyd said. “There was always that loose end after Sept. 11.”
When Ziemba and his friends returned to Danieley, he stopped the car in the middle of the road in front of Danieley Commons and they got onto the roof of the car, blasting Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the USA.” By the time the song was over, Floyd said hundreds of students had swarmed the car and began to climb on top of other vehicles. Some students then set fire to a pile of newspapers, which was quickly extinguished by Campus Safetey and Police Officer Darrell Gantt.
“There are people who think celebrating death in general is not a good idea, and I understand that,” said sophomore Andrew Hirsh, who was with Floyd and Ziemba at the start of the demonstration. “But he was an enemy. This was an accomplishment for America.”
It is unclear who is responsible for starting the cross-campus march but according to sophomore Elliot Dawes, students soon began running toward main campus via the Danieley tram service road and through the Moseley Center parking lot.
Several students jumped in Foneville Fountain and the crowd ran through the hallways of the Smith and Carolina residence halls before spilling onto East Haggard Avenue toward Danieley Center, continuously gaining support. The crowd dispersed around 3:30 a.m. in front of Danieley Commons.
The occasion brought students together in a way similar to the country’s unity immediately following the Sept. 11 attacks, Ziemba said.
“We’re rid of him, and it’s very exciting,” he said. “He can’t kill any more people.”
Dawes, who lives just outside New York City in nearby New Jersey, said he and his family could see the smoke from the Sept. 11 attacks for days.
“This moment wasn’t celebrating the death of a person, for me at least,” Dawes said, “but struggles we’ve been fighting. It’s a symbol of overcoming adversity.”
It was not bin Laden’s demise that fueled the celebrations, Hirsh said, but instead students’ desire to come together.
“At first, it was all about him being dead,” he said. “But by the end, we almost forgot Osama died. It was all positive, there was so much patriotism.”
But although the excitement has dissipated, Dawes said the announcement of bin Laden’s death will be an occasion he will always remember.
“Now it’s back to being students,” he said. “Everyone will go back to their normal lives. But everyone, really, especially people involved, will have their lives before that night and their lives after. This is something they’ll never forget.”