He remembers it as a rough night, telling Williams, "Well, there is no doubt that you don't sleep as much that evening as you do on a normal night. I stayed up late and I woke up early." But he was comfortable with the "go" decision he gave the next morning in the Diplomatic Room of the White House. "You have some serenity in knowing that you've made the best possible decision that you can and, you know, in that situation you just, you do some praying," he said.
With the order given, all the members of the team were determined to maintain normal schedules that betrayed nothing of the critical operation they had launched. That included attendance at the White House Correspondents' Dinner that Saturday night and a quick nine holes of golf for the president. But he acknowledged his mind was elsewhere -- particularly when Seth Meyers, the comedian at the dinner, made a joke about bin Laden. Obama laughed. But, he told Williams, "That was a little bit of acting going on there because my mind was elsewhere."
The efforts to hide what was going on even extended to the food ordered in for the team gathered at the White House on Sunday when the raid was under way. Pizza came from different restaurants and an aide went to Costco to get other food. But the tension was high, as everyone understood bin Laden might not be there or might elude capture. "It is one of those rare moments when you know that the man you're watching is putting everything on the line," said the vice president. "Everything on the line. Not only risking the lives of these incredible, incredible warriors, but also knowing that if he's wrong about this, man, he's going to pay a very, very high price for it."
The tensest moment came when the team, following the raid in real time with audio and video in a room next to the Situation Room, saw the first helicopter crash over a stone wall. "That helicopter didn't make it to the right spot," recalled Biden, "and everyone went, like, "˜Whoa'." The president remembered it as "a touch and go moment." Obama told Williams, "This was the longest 40 minutes of my life." But he added, "The only thing that I was thinking about throughout this entire enterprise was, "˜I really want to get those guys back home safe'.... I want to make sure that the decision I've made has not resulted in them putting their lives at risk in vain, and if I got that part of it right, if I could look myself in the mirror and say as commander in chief I made a good call."
The nerves were also evident in the quiet prayers of Biden and Adm. Mullen, both of whom are Catholic and both of whom, NBC reported, gripped rosaries during the operation. When the team heard the code word "Geronimo" that told them they had bin Laden, Biden started to put his rosary ring away. But Mullen tapped him on the shoulder. "I leaned down," said Mullen. "I said, "˜Mr. Vice President, not yet. Keep it going because as important as capturing or killing bin Laden was, it was more important to get him out.'"