People cheer outside the White House over the death of Osama Bin Laden in Washington, May 1, 2011. REUTERS/Jim Young
WASHINGTON DC (UPDATE) - Waving US flags, thousands flooded to the White House in spontaneous celebrations early Monday after the death of Osama bin Laden, as the surprise news was welcomed by Americans across the country.
Chanting "USA, USA" and punching the air, they began singing the national anthem even before the Al-Qaeda leader's killing was confirmed by President Barack Obama.
"We found him. He killed 3,000 people. It's justice," said 19-year-old student Jon Garcia, explaining he had come to the White House "to be a part of it. It's very historic."
"It's a historic day for America, we have been looking for him for 10 years. It's justice for families," added Anna Howell, a 27-year-old teacher.
Online, Twitter users flooded the service hailing the news, with more than 4,000 Tweets per second recorded during Obama's televised address confirming the Al-Qaeda founder's death, the social networking site said.
American Muslim group the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) hailed the news.
"We join our fellow citizens in welcoming the announcement that Osama bin Laden has been eliminated as a threat to our nation and the world," the Washington-based group said in a statement.
In New York, where some 3,000 people died when Al-Qaeda hijackers crashed two commercial airliners into the the Twin Towers, tourists and New Yorkers descended on Times Square as well as at Ground Zero.
"Obama got Osama!" they chanted, in celebrations that started shortly before midnight and continued through into the early hours.
"It's a miracle," said New Yorker Monica King, 22. "The attacks changed New York and now 10 years later we had our last word," she added, saying: "Now we want to celebrate."
Gary Talafuse, visiting from Texas, said Americans "feel a lot of national pride."
"This may not change anything in Al-Qaeda tactics, but after billions of dollars invested, this is a big loss for Al-Qaeda, and that brings some degree of reward to our efforts," said the 32-year-old.
Even the New York Police Department, usually low key, parked a car in the middle of Times Square and stared talking to people, laughing and posing for photos.
Across the country in Los Angeles, where the news was confirmed shortly before 9:00 pm, a roar of applause could be heard from bars with TV screens on the Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hoolywood.
"I'm really happy that this guy is dead because he killed so many people around the world. I'm glad that our nation is safe because of this," said Cesar Guellory, 25, at the Cabo Cantina bar.
Carol Morrinson, 35, said she had voted for Obama. "He's showing us how strong he can be... Today we can say that we are safe. I'm proud of the United States," she said.
Even American sports fans erupted in joy at the news. Fans at the Philadelphia Phillies Major League Baseball game Sunday night began chanting "U-S-A, U-S-A" as the news spread through the Citizens Bank Park stadium.
The Internet, including the Twitter and Facebook social networking websites, were also deluged with reaction to the Al-Qaeda leader's death, killed by US forces in Pakistan.
"Finally! I can now sleep tonight knowing this. He was hiding for years and was finally caught and killed. I am so happy right now," said Stewie, on one Yahoo message board.
Back in Washington, what started with a few dozen people had become thousands in a vast celebration in Lafayette Park outside the White House, what by the early hours.
"I had friends who lost families in 9/11. I never felt such emotion. In my town we lost a lot of loved one. It's something they have been waiting for for so long," said John Kelley, a 19-year-old student from New Jersey.
When the news was confirmed "my knees started shaking. I called my best friend. He lost his brother in the 9/11. He was overcome with joy. It's too good to be true. It's hard to believe."