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.'"
Later, the SEAL team sent photos back to the White House to prove that bin Laden was dead, shot in the head. The president paused for a long time when Williams asked him his reaction to the grisly photos, which he has refused to make public. “I think it’s wrong to say that I did a high five. Because you have a picture of a dead body and, you know, I think regardless of who it is, you always have to be sober about death,” he said. “But,” he added, “understanding the satisfaction for the American people, what it would mean for 9/11 families, what it would mean for the children of folks who died in the Twin Towers who never got to know their parents -- I think there was a deep-seated satisfaction for the country at that moment.”