On The Common, Revelers Celebrate Bin Laden's Death

By Jess Bidgood and Phillip Martin

May 2, 2011

BOSTON — The news of Osama bin Laden's death after a U.S. ground operation Sunday resonated through Boston Sunday night, with celebrations popping up in the Greater Boston area in Harvard Yard, the Christian Science Center and Boston Common.

Just after midnight, people were spilling down Commonwealth Avenue, chanting, "U.S.A! U.S.A!" and singing the national anthem and "God Bless America." By 1 a.m., hundreds of people — mostly students from nearby Emerson College, Suffolk University and Boston University — had gathered around the Boston Common's big white gazebo, cheering and singing.

As Vicky Jo Lum walked into the Common, she explained bin Laden's demise brings closure to an event that changed her family forever. "My uncle died (on Sept. 11), Billy Lum. He was in the first tower. It was like, instantly blown up. So I was just generally happy. Finally, it's over," Lum said.

Inside the park, students climbed up onto the Common's gazebo, hugging, singing and shouting. Some wrapped themselves in American flags, while two pairs of students waved the flag of the U.S. Marine Corps. The celebration varied in timbre: One young woman perched on the shoulders of another, holding a fake gun. Others hung back, watching. A few lit marijuana cigarettes.

Regardless of their celebration tactic, most of the students were there to mark a new moment in the story of Sept. 11, a day that changed the world 10 years ago when many of them were just becoming aware of it.

Cheryl, an Emerson college student, was still in disbelief that the man the U.S. has hunted for most of her adolescence was gone. "We were just like sitting around, and one of my roommates comes out and he's just like, guys. Osama bin Laden is dead. And we were like really? Those rumors have gone around before. And it was like, everywhere. And we all turned on the TV and it was amazing. It was so cool."

I.C. Etheridge said the moment represents badly needed bipartisan unity, because bin Laden's capture and killing resulted jointly from the policies of President Bush and President Obama. "I think that it's on the part of both administrations, for the Bush administration starting, declaring war on bin Laden and then for Obama for carrying through, following through on what we've set out to do for 10 years," Etheridge said.

David, a science student at Boston University wanted to celebrate -- but added that he wasn't completely enamored with the moment. "The only thing that can bring the United States together at a time like this, is the death of another human being. It's not winning a war, it's not fixing a budget crisis, its not the disaster that just happened with the tornados in the South. It's the death of another human being. And that is the only thing that has taken everybody and brought them in the streets to rejoice."

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