On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, current Ohio State students were in sixth grade history classes, driving to school with their moms and hiding under windows in their schools. Fast forward almost a decade later, and those same students were sitting in front of their computers, watching as their social media feeds announced the death of a man that caused those events to be seared in their minds forever.
“I was in sixth grade, it was during morning meeting and I remember our teachers telling us we were going on lock-down so we all huddled in the classroom on the floor below the windows,” said Amanda Gibson, a third-year in zoology. “Once word got around that everything was safe, the buses came and we left school early, my parents explained what happened to me.”
In an announcement Sunday night that many said will be as memorable as when the World Trade Center towers fell, President Barack Obama announced to the nation and the world that Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaida and mastermind behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks, was dead.
“I was studying and found out on Twitter,” Gibson said. “After that, we turned on the news and watched Obama’s speech. Then I listened to cars beeping, people screaming and music playing after that. But I had to continue studying.”
Michael Cox, a first-year in psychology, said he knew 9/11 was a big deal when he wasn’t allowed to go out to recess. He didn’t realize the gravity of the events until a few years later, he said.
“(Bin Laden) was the poster child of 9/11, essentially,” Cox said. “I think (his death) definitely brings a lot of closure, and I think there’s going to be a lot of families happy that he is dead.”
Although Cox was in bed by the time of Obama’s late-night televised speech confirming bin Laden’s capture and death, other students heard the news and found ways to commemorate the monumental event.
Matt Keaton, a first-year in psychology and political science, was in his dorm room in Haverfield House discussing Obama’s announcement with other residents when he saw Facebook posts about students heading down to Mirror Lake.
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Keaton, who jumped with some other students from his floor, described the scene as “insane” and said he believed students’ joy is directly related to the Americans’ anguish nearly a decade ago.
“I think that catching Osama has been something that’s been in the back of everyone’s minds since 9/11,” Keaton said. “They were waiting for this day to come.”
Keaton was in fourth grade, riding to school with his mom when he first heard of the events.
“I didn’t really understand what was going on,” Keaton said. “The school day was fairly normal … but as soon as I got home, (my) family (was) around (the) TV, my mom and sister both got off work early.”
As that day went on, Keaton said he began to understand what happened.
On Sunday, with the help of social media, news of bin Laden’s death and the Mirror Lake jump spread quickly. At one point Sunday night, Mirror Lake trended worldwide on Twitter and garnered national attention on CNN.
Other students found ways to celebrate without getting wet. Cory Spicer, a fourth-year in English, was at home when he first heard the news. He quickly gathered some friends and headed out to the bars for “victory shots.”
Spicer was in a seventh-grade shop class when he heard the 9/11 news.
“Teachers told us to stop working,” Spicer said. “(We) were sent back to homeroom classes. We were excited because we thought we might get to go home early. Basically we sat and watched the news the rest of the day.
“What happened (Sunday) night was our goal, and target No. 1, and 10 years have passed so it’s still a big deal because we got him, but so much has happened,” Spicer said. “I’m happy we got him, but at the same time, there’s so many other concerns that we have. … We have Afghanistan, Iraq, there are so many things that came from this thing.”
Allison Brogan, a graduate student in theatre, was already at the bar and watched Obama’s announcement at the Scarlet and Grey Cafe near Lane Avenue and High Street, where the bar’s live band erupted into song about bin Laden’s death.
Not everyone agreed that Sunday night was a cause for celebration, however. Emily Vargas, a first-year graduate student in counseling, said she was “surprised” at how many people rejoiced in bin Laden’s murder.
“I don’t like the idea of someone celebrating a death,” Vargas said. “I know it’s complicated … but I just don’t think it’s the best way to respond.”
Keaton said he was aware of the backlash against the late-night partying, but countered that students weren’t “necessarily celebrating death” as much as they were celebrating “justice” for those that 9/11 affected.
Deb Schipper, a program coordinator at the Student Wellness Center, was working at OSU on 9/11 and remembered watching the Twin Towers fall live on TVs at the old Ohio Union. She said that while images of the attack have done a lot of “damage” and make her emotional even to this day, people shouldn’t connect 9/11 to bin Laden’s death because there is still more work to be done.
“Probably even more motivated terrorists are now willing to sacrifice themselves in all kinds of ways that we can’t even comprehend,” Schipper said. “It’s naïve to think that we actually changed anything by killing this guy.”
David Gerad, Tom O’Neill and Jenelle Cooper contributed to this story.