Waving US flags, thousands flooded to the White House in spontaneous celebrations early yesterday after the death of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, as the surprise news was welcomed by Americans across the country.
Chanting “USA, USA” and punching the air, they began singing The Star-Spangled Banner national anthem even before bin Laden’s killing was confirmed by US President Barack Obama.
“We found him. He killed 3,000 people. It’s justice,” said 19-year-old student Jon Garcia, explaining he had come to the White House “to be a part of it. It’s very historic.”
“It’s a historic day for America, we have been looking for him for 10 years. It’s justice for families,” added Anna Howell, a 27-year-old teacher.
Online, Twitter users flooded the service hailing the news, with more than 4,000 Tweets per second recorded during Obama’s televised address confirming bin Laden’s death, the social networking site said.
US Muslim group the Council on American-Islamic Relations hailed the news.
“We join our fellow citizens in welcoming the announcement that Osama bin Laden has been -eliminated as a threat to our nation and the world,” the Washington-based group said in a statement.
In New York, where about 3,000 people died when al-Qaeda hijackers crashed two commercial airliners into the Twin Towers, tourists and New Yorkers descended on Times Square as well as at Ground Zero.
“Obama got Osama,” they chanted, in celebrations that started shortly before midnight and continued through into the early hours.
“It’s a miracle,” New Yorker Monica King said.
“The attacks changed New York and now 10 years later we had our last word,” she added, saying: “Now we want to celebrate.”
Even the New York Police Department, usually low key, parked a car in the middle of Times Square and started talking to people, laughing and posing for photographs.
New York City leaders were barely more diplomatic in their reaction to the demise of bin Laden.
New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly called the death of bin Laden a “welcome milestone” for the families of the victims.
“New Yorkers have waited nearly 10 years for this news,” New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.
Streets around Ground Zero — quickly filled with thousands of people waving flags and singing the national anthem.
Some climbed up lamp posts and traffic signs in Church Street and others that had filled with toxic dust in 2001, trying to get a view over the barrier surrounding the massive construction site where the towers once stood.
Zeshan Hamdani, whose brother Mohammad died rescuing victims in the towers, also found relief in the death of bin Laden.
“I am happy but I feel like crying. It’s great to finally get this guy,” he said.
Across the country in Los Angeles, where the news was confirmed shortly before 9pm, a roar of applause could be heard from bars with TV screens on the Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood.
“I’m really happy that this guy is dead because he killed so many people around the world. I’m glad that our nation is safe because of this,” said Cesar Guellory, 25, at the Cabo Cantina bar.
Carol Morrinson, 35, said she had voted for Obama.
“He’s showing us how strong he can be ... Today we can say that we are safe. I’m proud of the United States,” she said.