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Killing a pivotal event for U.S. young people?

Celebrating called closure for little kids of ’01. Or maybe it was just an excuse to party.

Ohio State student Kyle Jones holds up a U.S. flag in celebration of the announcement of the death of Osama bin Laden.

AP photo

First there were a few cheers. Then, as news that Osama bin Laden was dead beamed from TV screens around them, the crowd at a campus bar erupted.

For once, Alyssa Pupino thought, she was in the right place at the right time.

“I really don’t think I would’ve felt more American if there was a slice of apple pie sitting right in front of me,” said the junior at Ohio State University.

They partied Sunday night at Ohio State and Notre Dame and Stanford and many other campuses, rejoicing in the death of the man who claimed responsibility for the greatest act of mass murder on American soil. Students from George Washington University joined the throng chanting “USA! USA!” outside the White House.

Commentators and others cast bin Laden’s death as a defining moment for young Americans who grew up in the shadow of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, nearly a decade ago. On Twitter, someone posted a link to a photo of celebrations at the University of Delaware and called it an “intense sense of closure for people who were frightened little kids in ‘01.”

But it was also, to be truthful, an excuse to party and let loose for a few hours.

Sean Morrow, a senior at Clark University in Massachusetts, watched with fascination as his friends’ Facebook pages lit up with photos and status updates from various impromptu gatherings on other campuses.

“It’s kind of surreal to watch people celebrating someone’s death,” said Morrow, a political science major. But he understands it because, for him and many others his age, bin Laden was their boogeyman, "the main negative person of our generation.”

Add to that the news broke late at night — and that many college students are finishing up exams and ready to blow off steam — and the stage was set for revelry, he said.

A defining moment? Perhaps, he and others say, because they say they will always remember where they were when they heard the news. But some — even a number of young people themselves — are doubtful that it will shape them in the way that, say, the death of JFK molded baby boomers.

“It now becomes part of the narrative of 9/11. But there’s little to lead us to believe that this will be the watershed moment for them that we might like it to be,” said Alexander Riley, a cultural sociologist at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania. “They’re treating this news item like they’re treating other news items.”

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