Just arriving in D.C. from New Mexico at about 10:30 p.m., I almost missed the announcement that bin Laden was dead. My BlackBerry was buzzing with the news of the impending presidential message.
I was frustrated, in the airport, waiting for my bag. I ran to the car, turned on the radio; the president had not yet spoken. The announcer said a small group was gathering at the White House chanting “USA.”
I hurried there, arriving just as the president was speaking. One of the first to arrive, I parked half a block from the White House.
People were running, skateboarding, jumping out of cabs, double parking. The streets were already electric with enthusiasm.
The pulsing mass numbered about 500 people when I arrived. People chanting "USA, USA."
Flags were waving everywhere . . . the crowd swelled to thousands, hugging, shaking hands.
The average age was 26 or so. Handmade signs announced the news with unmistakable enthusiasm: "Sama bin gotten" "Justice has been done." "We got him."
Jubilation. Freedom. Gratitude. The day of reckoning for our public enemy No. 1 had arrived.
A light pole in the middle of the crowd was an obvious target. People tried to shimmy up it. The crowd chanted encouragement and groans in sympathy when they failed. Suddenly the crowd burst into the National Anthem. A young man had reached the top of the pole and draped a flag across the top.
A TV crew had arrived and turned on the camera to capture the emotions of the night.
A Capitol Hill staffer recognized me as a congressman, and word spread quickly that someone from Congress was there. Young people came up to hug me and thank me for serving.
The crowd was filled with vets. They were as young as the crowd, chests bursting with pride that they had done their part. One vet's T-shirt read "It is God's job to judge Osama bin Laden, It is the Military's job to arrange the meeting.
The nation was filled with renewed pride. For nearly a decade our men and women in uniform fought relentlessly for justice, for freedom, and for our way of life. Just like in the aftermath of that awful September morning, we were united as Americans.
At 2:30 am I departed. Others were walking wearily, but contentedly, away. Others, called by friends, were just arriving.
The night was a night of fervent thanksgiving for a nation that will remember its promise to bring to justice anyone who makes an unprovoked attack on our citizens. The celebration was the appropriate response of a grateful nation to so many who have given so much.
Rep. Steve Pearce represents the second district of New Mexico. He is a decorated Vietnam veteran, and is currently serving his fourth term as a U.S. congressman.
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