First Person | Generation that has known only war cheers in streets
A young Seattle woman had a front-row seat at history in the making Sunday night, joining a celebration outside the White House after the news came out that Osama bin Laden had been slain by U.S. forces.
Special to The Seattle Times
Editor's note: A young Seattle woman had a front-row seat at history in the making Sunday night, joining a celebration outside the White House after the news came out that Osama bin Laden had been slain by U.S. forces. Talia Schmidt, 24, a University of Oregon journalism graduate, is in Washington, D.C., on a four-month internship with the Washington Center for Politics and Journalism. Here's her account:
It's Sunday night, and my roommates and I are watching a movie in our little apartment off Connecticut Avenue. We're attempting to ward off the Sunday night blues when the fifth roommate emerges from her room.
"Turn on CNN," she says. ... Grudgingly, we change the channel.
We sit in awe as John King and Wolf Blitzer tell us that this is one of those moments you remember forever — what you were doing and where you were when you heard that Osama bin Laden was dead. They're comparing it to the moment the planes hit the World Trade Center on 9/11, to JFK's assassination, to moments that forever shaped a nation.
We just happened to be no more than a couple of miles from the White House, where a crowd was beginning to gather.
"We should go," I say, to my own astonishment. "I mean, we're here, after all."
We debate whether to change out of our pajamas and hop the Metro two stops south to the White House. Ultimately the answer is yes. This is history in the making, and we would regret missing out on the action.
I am grateful I live with five other journalism interns who share a passion for news and storytelling, no matter the ungodly hour.
As we walk toward the White House, we hear the chanting before we can make out the crowd. I feel goose bumps as I begin to comprehend the enormousness of the situation.
What we see next is worthy of a U.S. history textbook photograph: mobs of people cheering, waving the American flag, huddled close together singing the national anthem and cloaked in full-length patriotic capes. It is a sight to behold, and it's about more than one dead body. This is about revenge and justice and the beginning to the end of the war on terror.
A woman with jet-black hair and a calm expression stands at the front of the herd, her back to the White House. She has her arms high in the air, proudly waving a framed photograph of what looks like a young soldier. A brother, a son, a husband killed in 9/11? Who knows.
I was 14 years old in my first days at Ballard High School, sitting in keyboarding class, when I learned of the 9/11 attacks. With the TVs on all day at school, the images of the planes crashing into the towers and the fiery explosion that followed are woven into my memory like a nightmare you can't escape. Consequently, my entire adult life has been hassles at airports, fighting a "war on terror" and watching tension mount toward Muslims in this country. Does the death of Osama bin Laden represent an end to all that?
Sandwiched between thousands of my peers at the White House, I find that any direction I look, something was happening. There's the guy in an Uncle Sam top hat, hopping up and down wildly on a pogo stick talking into news cameras. And a young man has climbed a pole, shirtless but with an American flag draped over his shoulders.
It's a big, rousing party, complete with flasks, bottles of whiskey and the faint aroma of marijuana. My phone begins to vibrate uncontrollably as friends back home in Seattle, Oregon and Montana text me for details about the scene. I try to upload photos to Twitter and Facebook, but everyone in the crowd is trying to do the same thing, and the cell sites can't handle the traffic.
With all the tree-climbing and crowd surfing, I'm surprised by the lack of police intervention, but rows of officers on the perimeter and Secret Service agents dressed in black on the White House roof merely keep watch. The mood remains triumphant and jubilant.
The walk back to the Metro station proves difficult, with all the honking cars and groups of young people taking "celebratory shots to Bin Laden's death." The streets of D.C. are filled with an informal parade, where the cheering never stops.
I'm not sure what comes next in the war on terror. For the Obama administration, or for the nation's echo boomers who don't know anything else. Things have pretty much returned to normal in the District, but I feel lucky to have been in the midst of the celebration.
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.