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Bin Laden news triggers social media storm

Paul Biedermann of Huntington displays his Twitter page

Paul Biedermann of Huntington displays his Twitter page on a laptop as he relaxes in his den. During the flurry of comment that followed the announcement that international terrorist Osama bin Laden had been killed, Biedermann kept in touch with friends in Times Square. (May 2, 2011) Photo Credit: John Dunn

For Long Islanders on Twitter, Sunday night started as a typical winding down of the weekend. One woman lamented her discovery of three gray hairs. Another re-tweeted the optimistic thought that "Prince Harry is still available!"

But things were just starting to brew, and soon, from 10:45 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., an average of 3,440 tweets would rip through the Twitterverse -- that's per second -- according to Twitter.

At 9:47 p.m., Dan Pfeiffer, @pfeiffer44, White House communications director, had tweeted: "POTUS to address the nation tonight at 10:30 PM Eastern Time."

And at 10:24 p.m., Keith Urbahn, @keithurbahn, chief of staff for former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, tweeted: "So I'm told by a reputable person they have killed Osama Bin Laden. Hot damn."

Two minutes later, Urbahn, who many say broke the news, followed up with a disclaimer saying, "Don't know if its true, but let's pray it is."

At that point, Twitter and Facebook were bubbling with reports; sentiments of awe and delight; memories of 9/11; comments on the expectation that Donald Trump would call for bin Laden's long-form death certificate.

At 11:07 p.m., Paul Biedermann, @PaulBiedermann, of Huntington, tweeted: "He was in a mansion??? Caves aren't what they used to be." And later, "Wonder how many flat screens he had."

Biedermann, 48, a creative director, who from his then-Manhattan office saw the smoke billowing from the Twin Towers on Sept. 11, 2001, said Monday that the news was "a momentous occasion."

"Twitter gave us all a way to communicate and be in it in the moment," he said.

He also followed the tweets of the man in Abbottabad, Pakistan, software developer Sohaib Athar, @ReallyVirtual, who was tweeting about the noise of hovering helicopters, explosions and rattling windows until finally he made the connection, saying: "Uh oh, now I'm the guy who liveblogged the Osama raid without knowing it."

A little after midnight, Pamela Cunningham, 39, of Selden, had just finished watching a movie and was about to go to bed. As she went to close her laptop, her Facebook page refreshed and she saw a Newsday post asking, "Where were you when you heard Osama bin Laden was killed?"

Her response: "I'm sorry, what?"

She called her husband, they turned on the news and she kept an eye on Facebook, spotting the "Osama Bin Laden is DEAD" page, that as of 9 p.m. Tuesday had more than 470,000 "likes."

Cunningham shared on her wall a prayer and chant of USA USA USA USA.

Besides tipping her off to the story, Facebook also created a sense of community for her and her far-flung family members, she said, especially at 1 a.m. when it's too late to make a phone call.

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