Hundreds of ISU community members gathered on campus and in the streets of Ames on Sunday night in response to President Barack Obama's announcement that Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. forces in Pakistan.
The celebration began in Greekland, concentrated in front of the Delta Tau Delta fraternity house. It migrated toward Central Campus, settling at the steps of Curtiss Hall. Cries of, "We want Geoffroy!" and "To the Knoll!" led the crowd to the president's residence. From there, the celebration traveled down Lincoln Way — flags waving, fireworks exploding and truck engines roaring — to Campustown, where some crowd members climbed the Campustown Campanile. The night ended with a trek to Jack Trice Stadium. Crowds were dispersed, for the most part, by about 2 a.m.
"I'm here because America kicks ass," said Chance Mitchell, junior in mechanical engineering. Mitchell started the night on Central Campus with a small group of people, and followed the crowd for the celebration's entirety.
Mitchell learned of bin Laden's death through Facebook, which was not uncommon. Many students said they heard about it on Facebook, Twitter or via text message. Others were simply in the right place at the right time for the celebration.
"As soon as Obama gave his speech — I'm in a fraternity — and everyone in Greekland poured out into the streets to sing and rally, and as a group we all assembled," said Colin Hueser, sophomore in biochemistry. "We were here, we ended up at Welch, and we all just ended up here to celebrate. It's something that, when I'm 80, I'll remember this for the rest of my life."
Hueser said he had a final exam at 7:30 a.m. the following morning, but to not be out celebrating would be "ludicrous."
Throughout the night, a variety of chants and songs were heard. Everything from a simple, "USA!" to "America the Beautiful" sounded from the crowd, but not all speech was cheerful. While the group was gathered at the steps of Curtiss Hall, two people wearing George W. Bush and Obama masks made an appearance. To the 'Obama' appearance, one crowd member shouted that he wished he could assassinate him. To that, the crowd responded with a chant: "F**k that guy!"
Some cheers had more of a tie to Iowa State than to bin Laden or national security; Heuser led the crowd in the ISU Fight Song, and the night ended in front of Jack Trice with cries of, "F**k the Hawkeyes."
An especially popular chant was, "Cancel finals" — at its loudest when the group packed Union Drive in front of The Knoll, where two guards kept watch at the front door. Following the Knoll visit, the ISU Government of the Student Body's Facebook and Twitter accounts asked students if they would like the GSB to hold an emergency meeting to pass a resolution requesting the cancellation of all Monday morning finals.
Andrew Fisher, junior in construction engineering, hadn't studied for his Monday final yet, but said celebrating bin Laden's death was "more important." Fisher was one of the first to reach the steps of Curtiss Hall, waving a flag above the crowd as it gathered below.
"You know, you gotta support our troops and kind of just what America stands for, really," Fisher said. "Even when we fall at the worst times, like 9/11, we can get back on our feet and kind of just show our pride. It's pretty cool; there's no division tonight, there's no parties, there's no sides, everyone's on one side."
Fisher said he keeps his flag in his closet, bringing it out only on special occasions such as tonight's announcement. From flags to red, white and blue outfits, it appeared that much of the crowd had reached for its "special occasion" gear.
Following chants of "Bush! Bush!" and "Bring back Reagan," Zach Bartlett, sophomore in biological systems engineering, said he only wears his "Reagan-Bush '84" t-shirt on special occasions. Connor McMahon, in political science and history, said the same of his American flag polo shirt.
"It's been 10 years since the attack on 9/11 and Osama bin Laden's been running and hiding, but we finally caught up to him today. It's a great feeling to know that President Bush didn't put all his efforts into something that was for naught," McMahon said.
While some wore their political affiliations on their sleeves, others felt the night transcended party lines.
"I think it's great that everybody can put aside their differences for something greater than themselves," said Logan Butler, junior in aerospace engineering. "I mean, we have all of these issues with politics right now, these petty arguments, and we can just set that aside right now and focus on something that's so awesome."
Butler joined the celebration around 12:30 a.m. after finding its location through Twitter posts. He said he was "celebrating the death of a notorious mass murderer."
Brandon Joshua, freshman in interdisciplinary studies, found the crowd after hearing fireworks.
"I'm out here because I just want to be supportive of the U.S.A. I want to support my patriotism," Joshua said.
However, not everyone felt the celebration was a patriotic event.
"I guess I'm interested to see the moment and see how people react," said Ian Ringgenberg, graduate student in interdisciplinary graduate studies. "I guess I'm not personally celebrating killing one guy after 10 years of loss of life and invading two countries, but I guess 10 years from now I think I'll have wanted to have witnessed it."