At 12.15pm yesterday afternoon, I turned on ABC News24 and was told that Barack Obama was due to appear on television at 12.30pm. There was no information on what he intended talking about.
Since this was 10.30pm on a Sunday night in Washington, you didn’t need to be particularly bright to work out that something was up. Obviously there was an announcement that couldn’t wait. Without really thinking about it, I assumed it was related to Afghanistan or Iraq.
I had work to do and didn’t get back to the television until 12.35pm. Obama had not yet appeared. I opened up my Twitter client, TweetDeck, and discovered reports that Osama bin Laden was dead.
By about 12.50pm, multiple media outlets were claiming they had confirmed these reports. Many of these claims were tweeted. Some tweets contained a link to a website report.
Between 12.30pm and 1.35pm when Obama finally appeared (at 11.35pm Washington time) most television stations and every cable network were all over the story. Twitter was heaving.
A number of people retweeted Keith Urbahn, Chief of Staff to Donald Rumsfeld. Urbahn is now seen as the man who first published the news about bin Laden.
During this time, I also became aware of a Twitter user @ReallyVirtual, who had unwittingly tweeted about the assault on bin Laden’s compound as it happened. Many hours later, I looked at his account, read the tweets, and laughed at his dry humour.
By the time Obama appeared, I had read a number of articles on various US media websites, mainly CNN, Washington Post and The New York Times. The Times site was hard to reach, such was the traffic. Most of these articles had little to say, apart from claiming that various sources were anonymously confirming the death of bin Laden. Some ran profile pieces and timelines from 9/11.