DALLAS — With President Barack Obama's announcement that a U.S.-led mission had killed Osama bin Laden, a small group of Texans gathered to celebrate outside President George W. Bush's Dallas home, leaving behind American flags and patriotic, red, white and blue balloons.
Meanwhile in Central Texas, the news had a special poignancy for Georgetown resident Will Chapman, whose son was the first U.S. serviceman killed by enemy fire in the Afghanistan war.
"I don't want to use the words it avenges his death. But it's always been a concern of mine that he not die in vain," Chapman told The Associated Press by telephone Monday. "And this right here is a major step so that doesn't happen. We now have the person who is most responsible."
Sgt. 1st Class Nathan Ross Chapman, 31, of San Antonio, died in January 2002 after being ambushed following a meeting with several Afghan tribal leaders.
About a dozen people gathered near Bush's high-security home until a thunderstorm started about midnight Sunday. On Monday morning, a sign on the gate read in small letters, "President Obama forgot to say ..." then continued in letters big enough to be read from the road, "Thank you President Bush."
"George Bush did so many great things for our country. We really wanted to be with him to celebrate this momentous day in American history," college student Billy Fox told WFAA-TV.
Bush, who was home when he learned of bin Laden's death late Sunday, released a statement congratulating Obama and praising the U.S. military personnel involved in the operation in northern Pakistan. Bush was in power on 9/11 when terrorists commandeered four commercial jets, crashing them in New York City, Washington and in Pennsylvania, killing nearly 3,000 people.
A relative of one of the 17 sailors killed in 2000 when Al-Qaida carried out a suicide bombing of the USS Cole said it was great that the U.S. has killed bin Laden but it should take steps as soon as his replacement as head of the terror group is known.
"America should step up and take the head off the snake real fast," said James Gauna, the uncle of 21-year-old Timothy Gauna, who died in October 2000 when the Naval ship was in a Yemen port.
James Gauna, who lives in Ennis where his nephew graduated high school in 1997, learned of bin Laden's death late Sunday when his girlfriend sent him a text. He was up much of the night watching television coverage and said he felt peace when he finally went to sleep.
When he awakened, as he has each morning since his nephew's death, James Gauna looked at a picture of him on the wall across the room.
"This is a victory for you," the uncle said he spoke out loud to his nephew's picture.
Tim Gauna joined the Navy in 1999 as an information systems technician. He hoped to earn money for a college degree in computer science.
U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison said she called former President George W. Bush on Monday morning because she was "elated" after hearing the news from television reports the previous night. She credited the leadership of Bush and Obama.
"It was a joint effort and a single commitment," Hutchison told The Associated Press at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport before returning to Washington. "Taking out the spiritual leader of al-Qaida is such a significant step, and it shows the world that we will pursue terrorists."
Other Texas leaders also chimed in, praising the effort that tracked and killed bin Laden.
"On behalf of all Texans, I'd like to extend our gratitude to the brave men and women of our military and intelligence communities who devoted their lives to tracking this individual down, particularly the members of our valiant special forces who flew into harm's way Sunday to finally put an end to bin Laden's murderous reign," Gov. Rick Perry said in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers remain with those who will continue to wage our global fight on terror, placing their own lives on the line to keep us safe back here at home."
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement, "Let this serve as a grave reminder to all those who wish to do our nation harm: If you murder Americans, you will be hunted, you will be found and you will be brought to justice."
However, the sister of one of 13 Fort Hood soldiers killed in a mass shooting said she does not feel safer.
Leila Hunt Willingham's brother, Spc. Jason Dean "J.D." Hunt, was killed in the November 2009 shooting rampage on the Texas Army post.
The suspect, Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hasan, had made statements expressing support for bin Laden and charging that the U.S. was at war with Islam several years before the Fort Hood rampage, according to a Senate report. Hasan also had repeated contact with U.S.-born radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who encouraged Muslims to kill U.S. troops in Iraq and is now believed hiding in Yemen.
"We still have troops over there fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, and I worry about whether all of these celebrations might incite something," Willingham said. "And you don't know who may be over here and might do something like what happened at Fort Hood."
Associated Press writers Paul J. Weber in San Antonio, Diana Heidgerd in Dallas, Angela K. Brown in Fort Worth and Betsy Blaney in Lubbock contributed to this report.