WASHINGTON // With car horns blaring down Pennsylvania Avenue and loud shouts of "USA! USA!" filling the air, thousands of people, mostly area university students, converged on the White House to celebrate the death of Osama bin Laden.
The usually stern police that guard the US president's residence looked on early yesterday as revellers hung to the black iron fence that borders the White House grounds, clambered high into the trees across the street in Lafayette Park and bounced around on pogo shoes, clad in American flags.
Many of those who gathered around the executive mansion were old enough only to have the barest of memories of the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington that bin Laden masterminded. For a few, those memories were especially vivid.
"Almost 10 years ago I looked out my school window and saw the [World Trade Centre] towers fall. Today, I have closure," said Jimik Patel, a 22-year-old student at nearby George Washington University, grasping an American flag.
While few in the mostly youthful crowd had recollections as stark as Mr Patel's, theirs is a generation that has been irrevocably shaped by the events of September 11, as well as the wars and often toxic politics they spawned.
"It's interesting to see it after 10 years. All the political events of our lives have been the result of 9/11", said Alex Tan, a 20-year-old student at George Washington.
There will be some in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world who will undoubtedly grieve at the news of bin Laden's death. To them, he was an anti-imperialist symbol, a defiant jihadist who insisted violence was a necessary tool for dealing with Islam's foes.
For Hector Santini, however, the hastily scrawled cardboard sign he held aloft at the site of the former World Trade Centre offered a sharply contrasting message: "Obama 1-Osama 0".
The 27-year-old, a United States naval officer, was joined by hundreds of New Yorkers after President Obama announced that bin Laden had been killed in a raid on his compound in northern Pakistan.
"I'm a fellow New Yorker, like all these people here, so there's a great sense of relief. For the families that suffered and whatever drama they went through on 9/11, this was a big relief," Mr Santini said as the crowd waved American flags and shouted "USA, USA".
"Hopefully this will clear a lot of ghosts for people and so they can feel more settled and that their family members will be able to rest in peace and they can move on. That maybe this will close a chapter in their life that has been open for 10 years."
Bob Horan, 63, a folk singer, had a particular reason to stroll a few blocks south of his apartment and visit the place now called ground zero, where almost 10 years ago, two commercial airlines piloted by hijackers crashed into two skyscrapers and killed more than 2,700 people.
"My daughter was almost killed at her school, which was only a few hundred yards south of ground zero and I spent about an hour and half trying to find her," said Mr Horan. "And we're here today because we're glad that the person who tried to murder her has been taken out of action.
His daughter, Megan Horan, now a 23-year-old jazz singer, had more complicated emotions following news of bin Laden's death.
"It's not great - it's weird. I don't believe in celebrating anyone's death," said Ms Horan. "It's an important moment although it's not as important as 9/11 itself. It feels surreal. It doesn't feel like something to be celebrated."
For one resident of Washington who packed her neighbour's children into her car and fled the city nearly 10 years ago as an airliner slammed into the Pentagon, bin Laden's death was cause for contemplation. "It is a very proud moment, but a tragedy at the same time. How can you celebrate a death? I can't celebrate his death. I feel sad about anyone dying," said Jackie, who asked that her last name not be used.
Not far away, a youth with a megaphone was heard chanting, "We got him! We got him!"
Michael Hernandez reported from Washington, James Reinl from New York