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(Enlarge) Waving American flags and chanting USA, USA, USA, a massive crowd celebrates late into Sunday night at the news of Osama bin Laden's death. (Staff photo by Kevin Rector)

Upon hearing directly from the nation’s president Sunday night that American special forces had killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, people gathered by the hundreds outside the White House in Washington, D.C.

They sang the Star Spangled Banner, chanted President Barack Obama’s presidential campaign slogan “Yes we can!” and waved American flags in celebration of the fact that al Qaida’s leader and the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks had been killed.

The crowded atmosphere was joyous, and the mostly young celebrants were exuberant.

Among them were clusters of college students from the region’s universities, including many from the Baltimore area.

“I knew it was going to be big, and I wanted to celebrate the death of America’s great enemy,” said Ian Everhart, an Arbutus native and 2009 graduate of Catonsville High School who is now studying Chinese at George Washington University in the district.

“This is a testament to the greatness of President Obama.”

Everhart’s friend Caleb Dependahl, a Perry Hall native who also attends George Washington University, said he and his friends had decided to celebrate at the White House, despite the fact that they are in the midst of finals, because they knew it would be a unique experience.

Still, they were surprised at the intensity of the public celebration, he said.

“I didn’t expect it to be like this. Euphoric, really,” Dependahl said. “It’s definitely a night you’ll never forget. It’s like 9/11.”

Sandhya Patel, a native of Ellicott City and a junior at the University of Maryland, College Park, said she and her friends had driven into the city after hearing the news on the radio.

They “didn’t know what to expect,” Patel said, but were glad they had come.

“It’s just so refreshing to see everyone unite, even after 10 years,” she said, making a reference to the 2001 attacks.

“It’s just so great to be an American.”

Penina Kozlovsky, a native of Pikesville and a student at the University of Maryland as well, said she and her group of friends had also driven into the city to witness the event.

“I kind of wanted to be part of history,” she said.

Within the sea of people that descended on the White House were reporters from local and foreign news agencies. Many people carried or wore around their shoulders large American flags. A giddiness prevailed as people slapped each other’s backs and screamed, “We got him!”

Men and women climbed trees and lamp posts, leading cheers and chants.

“This is the only event where the Secret Service wouldn’t be mad for people climbing the lamp post,” Dependahl said.

Cheers of “USA, USA, USA” were repeated multiple times.

People took dozens of pictures on their phones in an attempt to document the event, they said.


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