'Words Can't Express How Happy We Are'
May 03, 2011
by Donna Koehn
The Tampa Tribune
A soldier staring at her cellphone urgently asked the Hattrick's bartender to turn on the news.
The sports bar in downtown Tampa was filled with about 70 fans celebrating the Lightning victory over the Washington Capitals on Sunday night when a scroll came across the television screen: Osama bin Laden. Dead.
"The whole place just erupted," said general manager David Mangioni. "We cranked it up. It was a goose bumps moment."
University of Tampa student Christopher Adamo echoed the joy Monday.
"Just an amazing night," he said. "Everybody was just celebrating. It was madness inside the courtyard here, ... and just words can't express how happy we are today."
In Tampa and across the nation, spontaneous outbursts of glee greeted the news that the mastermind of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks had been killed by U.S. Navy SEALs in Pakistan on Sunday.
In Tallahassee, Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos referenced the bin Laden ambush before opening the Senate session Monday.
"Justice has finally been served," said the Melbourne Republican and U.S. Senate candidate. "I also want to applaud our commander in chief. Job well done."
The Senate rose in a standing ovation.
Republican Gov. Rick Scott said in a statement that threats remain but the world is safer. He also commended President Barack Obama, the U.S. military and the intelligence community.
In Tampa, the Bayshore Patriots, a group of men and women who have waved American flags on Bayshore Boulevard in honor of the troops since 9/11, gathered again during rush hour Monday evening to mark bin Laden's death.
It is a bittersweet moment for Alyse Duffy, who serves on the Patriots' board of directors.
"We have to relive all those images from 9/11," she said. "His death reminds of me of all the losses."
Her son, Michael, joined the Marine Corps in August, on his 18th birthday. Three weeks ago, he was sent to the area of Afghanistan in which Plant City Lance Cpl. Ronald D. Freeman was killed on Thursday.
She worries about retribution and said she sent her son a Facebook message to call her.
"I told him if he didn't, I was coming over there to embarrass him in front of all those other Marines," she said with a laugh. "I'm desperate to hear from him."
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Social media played a role in the spread of the news, said Kelli Burns, professor in the school of mass media at the University of South Florida.
"People have the need to be instantly connected to one another," she said. "It was a time of evening when lots of people were using Facebook or Twitter. If something breaks like this, it's a way to be on the scene. It also allows us to know immediately how our friends are feeling about it and how we can make sense of it."
John Rinker of Thonotosassa was chopping wood in his backyard Sunday night when his wife broke the news - in person.
"Your dream has come true," she said. "They got him."
Rinker, a U.S. Army veteran, said he was elated.
"I went out and fixed myself a cocktail at 1 a.m.," he said. "But I thought I just couldn't sit here and be happy. I had to do something else."
So he dug out 175 American flags from his shed and started planting them on the curbs of his neighborhood, the Spanish Main RV Resort.
Rinker usually takes out the flags to celebrate Memorial Day, July Fourth and Veterans Day.
Some people expressed mixed feelings, trying to reconcile their joy at bin Laden's death with an uneasiness that it's wrong to cheer about it.
"You never wish for anybody to die," Mangioni said, "but it was a well-deserved death. I think you can say the world is a better place for it."
Patricia Leavy, associate professor of sociology at Stonehill College in Easton, Mass., and the author of a book about public memory of 9/11, said the impromptu outbursts represent deep feelings of vindication and relief.
"While typically it is not considered socially acceptable to rejoice in death or killing, in the case of Osama bin Laden, nothing follows typical norms," she said.
"As the public has grown weary of the never-ending pursuit of terrorism, which is usually a shadowy image that can't quite be pinned down, bin Laden is the face of terrorism and his death signifies a tangible success."
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Alan Lambert, a professor of psychology at Washington University in St. Louis, has studied the phenomenon of the "rally 'round the flag effect" - the tendency of Americans to throw their support behind a president in times of war. Anger rather than anxiety drives this behavior, he said.
In the case of celebrating the death of bin Laden, Lambert said he understands the reaction.
"We want a sharp, definitive victory over the enemy," he said. "This is probably as close as we're going to get. Osama bin Laden is a symbol of pure evil."
Other scholars voice concerns about the elation.
Jonathan Tran, a professor of Christian ethics at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, cites the "just war tradition," the only accepted theological justification of war in Christianity.
"It sees war as sometimes necessary but never good, and certainly not something to be celebrated," he said. "We can be thankful that this perpetrator of heinous crimes can do so no longer, but to celebrate in the streets is illicit in just war terms.
"Rather, we ought to mourn that he had to be killed," he said.
John Steinbruner, director of the Center for International and Security Studies at the Maryland School of Public Policy, calls the death of bin Laden a "summary execution."
"Our emotions are running out in front of our intellect here," he said. "We need to be careful what we cheer for."
Steinbruner believes the legal implications of killing even a loathed person such as bin Laden are grave, as they could lead to a decision to kill whomever the United States deems a terrorist threat without a trial.
"The threat of terrorism is that it leads to an attack of our own legal system. The way in which we did this does have ominous consequences," he said.
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