Osama bin Laden dead: Young revelers sprint to White House for patriotic party

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(Photo: Andy Miller/ )

The name Osama bin Laden meant nothing to Doug Sparks’ daughter, who wasn’t born when airplanes slammed into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11. Sparks bundled up the 7-year-old anyway and bluntly explained why they were traveling from Montgomery County to the White House so late on a Sunday night.

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“I said this is the devil, who attacked us and our country ... we killed him last night, just a couple hours ago, and we're going down because this is something that you'll remember for the rest of your life,” he says.

When Sparks, his daughter, and his wife arrived at the White House, they found a jubilant swell outside. Flags were flying and cheers rang out. There were patriotic chants and blaring horns. Osama bin Laden, the leader of the terrorist group al-Qaeda, was dead, killed in an American raid in Pakistan. Inside the White House, President Barack Obama told the country about the military operation. Outside its gates, a growing crowd of young people were spilling out into the streets.

“This person has been a symbol of the devil, evil,” Sparks says. “I don't know how best to put it. It's just changed everything that there is about everybody's lives, but in particular those lives that are young lives, in their formative years. My youth was the Vietnam War. But that was quite different than this. This, you felt directly a threat.”

There were probably several reasons the Sunday night celebration attracted a younger crowd. The news broke late and spread quickly over Twitter and Facebook. These kids — who watched friends go to war and lived through an increasingly uncertain and unstable time — were awake, after all, and they were connected.

“It’s huge,” A 25-year-old legislative aide told the Associated Press. “It’s a great day to be an American.”

Owen Dinsmore, a 21-year-old Georgetown student, was among that fresh-faced crowd Sunday night. He was a sixth grader in New Jersey when the Twin Towers fell. He was at a Georgetown library Sunday night when he learned bin Laden had been killed. It didn’t take him long to leave campus, hop a cab and head to Pennsylvania Avenue.

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