From Ground Zero in New York City to Washington D.C. and across the nation, Americans spilled onto the streets to cheer the news of the killing of Osama bin Laden, to sing patriotic songs and to wave the American flag.
Ground zero, more familiar these past 10 years for bagpipes playing "Amazing Grace" and solemn speeches and arguments over what to build to honor the Sept. 11 dead, became, for the first time, a place of revelry.
"We've been waiting a long time for this day," Lisa Ramaci, a New Yorker whose husband was a freelance journalist killed in the Iraq war, said early Monday. "I think it's a relief for New York tonight just in the sense that we had this 10 years of frustration just building and building, wanting this guy dead, and now he is, and you can see how happy people are."
Uptown in Times Square, dozens stood together on a clear spring night and broke into applause when a New York Fire Department SUV drove by, flashed its lights and sounded its siren. A man held an American flag, and others sang "The Star-Spangled Banner."
In Washington, in front of the White House, a crowd began gathering before President Barack Obama addressed the nation late Sunday to declare, "Justice has been done." The throng grew, and within a half-hour had filled the street in front of the White House and begun spilling into Lafayette Park.
"It's not over, but it's one battle that's been won, and it's a big one," said Marlene English, who lives in Arlington, Va., and lobbies on defense issues. She said she has baked thousands of cookies to send to friends serving in Iraq and Afghanistan over the years and that she was at the White House because they couldn't be.
The celebrations began to come together late on Sunday night, after Americans began hearing about the death of bin Laden from bulletins on television, texts and calls from family and friends and posts on social networking sites.
Bin Laden was slain in his luxury hideout in Pakistan, early Monday local time and late Sunday night in the United States, in a firefight with American forces. Obama said no Americans had been harmed in the operation.
As news of the president's announcement began to filter across the country, the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies were in the middle of a game in Philadelphia, and chants of "U-S-A! U-S-A!" began in the top of the ninth inning at Citizens Bank Park. Fans could be seen all over the stadium checking their phones and sharing the news.
There were smaller, spontaneous gatherings around the nation — a handful of Idahoans who made their way to the state Capitol in downtown Boise, a small group who waved flags and cheered on an Interstate 5 overpass south of Seattle known as Freedom Bridge.
People said they were surprised that bin Laden had finally been found and killed. John Gocio, a doctor from Arkansas who was gathering what details he could from TV screens at O'Hare Airport in Chicago, marveled: "After such a long time, you kind of give up and say, 'Well, that's never going to happen.'"
Along with the outburst of joy over bin Laden's death, there was an increase in security — at least in New York, where authorities said there would be extra police at all three area airports "out of an abundance of caution." The Port Authority also said there would be more police along the George Washington Bridge and at ground zero.
But for the most part, as Sunday stretched into Monday, the nation stopped to reflect, and to rejoice.
With final exams looming, thousands of Penn State University students gathered in State College, Pa., the student newspaper reported. One was dressed as Captain America, fireworks were set off and colorful chants rose up from the crowd. At Ohio State University, some students, including the student body president, jumped into a lake on campus to celebrate, according to The Lantern newspaper.
At the White House, Will Ditto, a 25-year-old legislative aide, said he was getting ready to go to bed when his mother called him with the news. He decided to leave his home on Capitol Hill and join the crowd. As he rode the subway to the White House, he told fellow passengers the news.
"It's huge," he said. "It's a great day to be an American."
Associated Press writers Tom McElroy in New York City, Jessica Gresko in Washington, Jeannie Nuss in Chicago and Jeff Karoub in Dearborn, Mich., contributed to this report.