Obama on Sunday: A photo for the ages?
President Obama and his administrative and national security officials receive updates about the attack on Osama bin Laden. (Photo credit: Pete Souza/White House)
May 3rd, 2011
05:15 PM ET

Obama on Sunday: A photo for the ages?

Washington (CNN) - It may prove to be the defining image of Barack Obama's presidency.

Sunday, May 1, 2011. Obama is huddled with his national security team in the White House Situation Room, receiving real-time updates on the mission to kill or capture the most wanted man in the world: Osama bin Laden.

Obama, wearing a white collar shirt and black jacket with no tie, sits in a small chair in a corner of the room, flanked by Vice President Joe Biden and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen.

The president, so often pictured in a relaxed pose with a smile on his face, has a grave expression. He is steely eyed and hunched forward. He is staring straight ahead at a screen not visible in the photo.

Across the table, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appears worried. She is also staring ahead, one hand over her mouth and another over a classified document in her lap. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is seated to her left.

White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley and presidential homeland security and counterterrorism adviser John Brennan are among a small group standing in the back.

A partially obstructed presidential seal hangs behind Obama.

"It was probably one of the most anxiety-filled periods of time, I think, in the lives of the people who were assembled" there, Brennan told reporters Monday. "It was clearly very tense, a lot of people holding their breath. And there was a fair degree of silence as it progressed, as we would get the updates."

Brennan described "a tremendous sigh of relief" when the news came that bin Laden had finally been found, ending nearly a decade of painstaking work and frustration.

Obama's advisers disagreed over whether to launch the risky operation. "It was one of the most gutsiest calls of any president in recent memory," Brennan said.

The photo, taken by current White House photographer Pete Souza, captured "a defining moment in history very well," said Eric Draper, a photographer for President George W. Bush.

It's "very dramatic" and a "study of the intensity" of the time, he said.

"There are some moments that the photographer really just has to be there," he said. "The moment is so powerful" that it speaks for itself.

soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. Jose Santiago

    a lot of people are questioning, why bin laden was killed if he was unarmed at the time of the Geronimo operation? my question to those is, why bin laden killed so many innocent people unarmed on september 11. Its my understand that Justice nocked on bin laden's door !!!!.

    May 3, 2011 at 11:34 pm |
  2. aliceNYC

    I am so proud of all those people in that room and especially President Obama

    May 3, 2011 at 8:01 pm |
  3. sandi follette

    The photographer has,since the outset of his craft,captured all of history's defining moments

    May 3, 2011 at 7:54 pm |