Campuses React to bin Laden’s Death

The news of Osama bin Laden’s death led to celebrations across America, including on college campuses.  USA Today College collected stories from students about how their campuses reacted, and many students reported celebrations in the street complete with chanting and fireworks.

[Read Sebastian’s description of the reaction at KU]

Aamna Khalid Mahmoud, who studies in North Dakota, wrote:

Yeah as soon as everybody heard the news they cheered up. Then a couple of people headed off to the bar to drink for joy. It is a thing to be happy about, but maybe going out and drinking on a Sunday night might be a little too much. After all the war is still on.

Ohio State University reacts:

But not every American reacted that way. In fact, two of our American bloggers said the reaction where they are has been more nuanced. They wrote these responses Monday morning:

Terence Kelly – Baruch College

I work in Lower Manhattan and have a paramilitary checkpoint (not police) and bomb sniffing dog immediately outside the entrance to our building. Ground Zero is four blocks away, and a lot of people have gathered and continue to pay respects throughout the day. Former NYC Mayor Giuliani was at the WTC site this morning, and a constant stream of elected officials have made a point of being part of this growing spectacle.

Yet, looking at faces in the crowd this morning, I observe a palpable sense of trepidation, something that we have not [felt] in a significant period of time down here. Certainly, there is still a great deal of anger and emotions associated with the events of September 11th in this neighborhood, exacerbated by the lack of closure. Forget what you see on the television – the mood here is overwhelmingly somber.

Julia Bumke – Princeton University

Responses here have been pretty mixed–people were cheering, singing the National Anthem, and chanting “USA! USA!” out in the quads last night, and several of the eating clubs went on tap to celebrate, but a lot of people were pretty emotional about it.

Since Princeton has a lot of students from northern New Jersey, Connecticut, and New York state, including myself, many of us remember 9/11 and its after effects pretty vividly: the attacks were something we could see (literally, in many cases) and feel, in terms of friends with parents who were hurt or missing and people whose lies were being turned upside down.

The attacks were a really life-changing part of our coming of age: in one of my American Studies classes here, we compared its effect on young people to that of John F. Kennedy’s assassination back in 1963, and I think that the comparison really holds true in that we saw our parents, teachers, and neighbors in a state of utter panic and desperation that we, as 10-year-olds, weren’t able to fully grasp. In a lot of ways, Bin Laden’s death brings a lot of those emotions back to the forefront–ten years later, we’re still deeply affected by the Twin Towers attacks, and this new development really hit that fact home for my friends and me.

I was in a meeting with my freelance journalism group, the University Press Club, when we heard the news about Bin Laden: we ran downstairs to the newsroom of the student newspaper, where thirty of us huddled around a television to hear more about what had happened and to wait for Obama’s statement. It’s one of the most surreal memories I’ll take away from my time at Princeton, and I’m glad that I got to share it with politics-junkie journalism students who were as riveted by the magnitude of Bin Laden’s death as I was.

Iowa State University reacts:

Jihye Choi, from Korea, had an even different reaction. She wrote this response today:

I had final commencement in the Washington Center, and every person who gave speech talked about Osama’s death (like ‘ God bless America.’). Every time they talked about that people gave a big applause, screamed, just like they saved the world (and it looks like people think America finally did). I couldn’t say anything about this because people looked so happy and I knew that people would be really upset if I say something different. I felt like I was in a church, and that was totally crazy. I felt like America’s nationality became a religion, the priest is Obama and finally killed demon, so saved the world or human being’s history.

In my apartment packed with a lot of college students who [are doing] internship in Washington, it was just a big celebration just like .. South Korea in 2002 ([when] Korea’s team [was] ranked at 4th in this World Cup). It brought me mixed up feelings, I just can’t get how people can be so happy about this. These people were so hurt after 911, because a lot of people died. And now the same people are so happy about one person’s death.

I got shocked how news article said this, like ‘Justice has been served’. So many journalists think The New York Times as their role model, and their standard. Therefore it was horrifying… it didn’t look like newspaper at all. it was something I expected to see my friend’s Facebook wall, not on NY Times.

I thought, America needed to have a strong nationality to tie all the different people in this society, that’s why people value freedom (America’s history) and respect presidents a lot. And recently that myth is about to be collapsed. Maybe that’s why people were so happy about that America finally did something. We are safe, our country is safe and nothing’s gonna changed. But for me, it’s clear that his death doesn’t guarantee anything. I was kind of sad because I know that Korea’s role model is America. I can’t imagine my country will look like this.

Also, thanks to Jihye for sharing this CNN article, which provides an interesting perspective on what bin Laden’s death means to young Americans: “The 9/11 Generation’s Bogeyman is Gone.”