National Security Advisor Tom Donilon received the President’s signed orders in the Diplomatic Room of the White House and set the mission for a Saturday launch. However, weather conditions, crucial for the helicopters to enter and exit the target area safely, were poor. The mission would have to be delayed.

During the next 72 tense hours, Obama displayed a remarkable poker face. In Alabama, Obama and the First Lady got an up-close look at communities in Tuscaloosa that had been devastated earlier in the week by fierce tornados. Later in the day, the President and his family visited Cape Canaveral, Florida. Originally there to watch the Space Shuttle Endeavor’s final journey into space, the launch had to be scrubbed due to technical issues. Undeterred, the First Family toured NASA’s facilities and Obama met in private with both Gabrielle Giffords, the Arizona Congresswoman who had miraculously survived an assassination attempt earlier in the year, and her astronaut spouse, Mark Kelley, the Endeavor mission commander. 

That night, before returning to Washington, Obama even delivered the commencement address at Miami Dade College. In a deeply personal speech, the President sidestepped many of the inspirational phrases he is best known for in favor of recalling his father’s troubled life and journey to the U.S. in search of a better education.  

"I didn't know him well, my father," said the president. "But I know that when he was around your age, he dreamed of something more than his lot in life. He dreamed of that magical place; he dreamed of coming to study in America."

On Saturday, Obama attended the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner, a lively event that placed the President square in the middle of a room filled with every reporter and news correspondent who calls the White House beat home. Obama was unflappable and even managed to deliver a few well-deserved zingers at Donald Trump after having endured weeks of pointless attacks by “The Donald” over the non-issue of the President’s Hawaiian birth certificate. One amazing moment happened that evening when comedian and event emcee, Seth Meyers, cracked a joke about the long-sought after Osama Bin Laden.

"People think Bin Laden is hiding in the Hindu Kush," unknowingly quipped Meyers, "but did you know that every day from 4 to 5 p.m. he hosts a show on C-SPAN?"

The President’s only reaction was a hearty guffaw. 

Half a world away, in Abbottabad, morning was rising. It would be the last one of Osama Bin Laden’s life. Had he stepped out onto that third floor balcony, the one behind the seven-foot tall spy wall, and looked upward, he would have seen a beautiful clear sky. 

One with plenty of visibility. 

Unbeknownst to the al-Qaeda leader, the most hunted man in U.S. history, there were crews fueling helicopters, men readying their weapons and technicians packing their gear. All to come visit him. A man who’s codename for this mission would be “Geronimo.” 

Hours later, in Washington D.C., as was his normal Sunday Morning custom, President Obama went to play golf at Andrews Air Force Base. A chilly rain fell as he shot only 9 holes instead of his regular 18. All in all, Obama spent 4 hours at Andrews while inside the White House Situation Room, the principles of the mission assembled to prepare. 

Around 2 p.m. EDT, President Obama met with his top advisors one last time to review and ratify the final orders, to dot the last I’s and cross the last T’s. With the riskiest move of his Presidency at hand, Obama signaled he was still all-in. 

The President returned to the White House Situation Room for an additional briefing at 3:32. Even at this point, they still lacked the confirmation to eliminate any doubt Bin Laden would even be there when his guests arrived. Back at Langley, intel from the latest up-to-the-minute satellite images was being examined. Eighteen minutes later, at exactly ten minutes before four, they had an answer. Sort of. 

The President was told that Bin Laden had been “tentatively identified.” It wasn’t like Bin Laden was going to send a postcard or a text message saying, “Yo bitches, I’m here.” Though no one, especially Panetta, was 100 percent sure, this was as much confirmation as they could hope for that Geronimo was in the building. A single satellite image depicting a man who could have been Bin Laden pacing the compound was their best evidence to date. 

Langley kept crunching the intel. At 7:01, Obama was given a “high probability” that the high value target inside the Abbottabad compound was indeed their man.

There in the Situation Room of the White House, Commander in Chief Obama gathered with Brigadier General Marshall B. “Brad” Webb, Assistant Commanding General, Joint Special Operations Command; Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough; Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; Secretary of Defense Robert Gates; Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; National Security Advisor Tom Donilon; Chief of Staff Bill Daley; Tony Binken, National Security Advisor to the Vice President; Audrey Tomason Director for Counterterrorism; John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism; and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. 

Simultaneously, Panetta created a private communications center in his personal conference room at Langley. From there, he took direct command of the military team responsible for the assault and the analysts monitoring from afar. 

Panetta, who was responsible for relaying information to the White House, was himself getting his feed directly from Vice Adm. William McRaven, head of the Joint Special Forces Command, in Afghanistan. On the ground, this was McRaven's operation. Any direct contact with the assault team would be coming from McRaven, if needed. 

Though the SEALs were equipped with helmet-cams recording video, McRaven, back in Afghanistan, would only be privy to the team’s radio feeds. This audio would be only for him to hear. Everything Panetta learned about the mission’s progress in real-time would come from McRaven and it would be Panetta’s responsibility to daisy-chain it on up to the White House. It was like a game of Whisper Down the Lane, with the exception that in this case, someone was going to die.  

At 1:15 Afghanistan time, two helicopters took off from Bagram, 160 miles from Bin Laden’s compound. Twenty-five SEALs rode in a pair of modified Black Hawk MH-60s stealth helicopters. One quick stop was made in Jalalabad to pick up their escorts: two Chinook MH-47s loaded with a back up force of men and extra fuel just in case it was needed. Attached to the MH-60s were stealth-configured shapes on the boom and tip fairings, swept stabilizers and a "dishpan" cover over a non-standard five blade tail rotor, all designed to reduce the helicopter’s radar signature. Other aerodynamic modifications along with flight control adjustments, would allow for a reduced rotor speed and less noise, further making these Black Hawks impossible to detect as they crept across the Pakistani border in the dead of night. 

From this point there was no turning back. Back in Washington came the biggest shocker of all, Obama’s team had elected to tell no one. We were about to execute an assassination mission on Pakistani soil without their approval or even their knowledge. If everything went “tits up,” this would be the kind of international incident that would be virtually impossible to smooth over by sending over a bouquet of flowers and a muffin basket. 

Two and a half kilometers away from an infamous neighbor he never knew he had, a 33-year old programmer named Sohaib Athar noticed something peculiar in the sky. A helicopter was hovering over his neighborhood, something that was not a common event for Abbottabad. 

Not knowing he would then be using be the only person in the world live-blogging about the assault, he sent the following Tweet: Go away helicopter - before I take out my giant swatter :-/” 

Much like the rest of the world, Sohib Athar, the man who would become the most famous Pakistani Twitter user ever, had no idea what would happen next. As it turned out, even the SEALs best laid plans were going slightly astray. 

Originally, one group of raiders would be dropped into the compound’s main courtyard. A second group of SEALs would then “fast rope” onto the roof of the main building, a technique developed by U.K. troops in the Falklands War. During fast-roping, soldiers slide down using only gloved hands and their own feet. It is quick but dangerous, especially when wearing a combat pack on your back and trying to avoid being shot. 

Trouble came quickly and unexpectedly as the second helicopter’s rotors suddenly lost lift in the hot high altitude air over the compound. Fighting for control of the stick, the pilot was able to land the bird gently in the courtyard despite clipping the tail rotor on a wall. The pilot tried to restart the engine with no luck. The Black Hawk was dead. 

Back in the White House situation room, things grew tense. Surely running through everyone’s mind was the fear of another Black Hawk Down scenario; brave boys having to fight for their lives, stuck behind enemy lines without a ride home. 

Lost now was the element of surprise. Between the raiders and the compound was an inner ring of walls. The SEALs were going to have to blast their way in. The lead came flying the moment the first men hit the compound. Hostile fire, provided by the surprised and half-asleep courier and his brother, stumbling out into the night with weapons drawn, came quickly. Osama’s handful of ragtag protectors were outgunned and outclassed as warriors by the vastly more heavily trained SEALs wearing night-vision goggles and armed with combat-ready and suppressor-enabled AR-15 assault rifles.

From above, the remaining hovering Black Hawk and the Chinooks provided a lookout platform as the assault raged below On the ground, SEALs outflanked the little resistance they met and easily pushed forward to the main dwelling to reach Bin Laden. Intelligence sources had pinpointed the al-Qaeda leader was most-likely living on the second and third floors of the largest structure. 

Sweeping through the fortress-like grounds, SEALs had anticipated the possibility of deadly booby traps or IEDs, so a specially trained dog was brought to help sniff out any explosives. Intel had revealed more than two dozen women and children living at the compound. At every turn, life and death calls had to be made over who was lethal and who was just in the way. From the Middle Eastern conflicts of the last two decades, U.S. forces knew anybody could potentially be armed with a suicide vest laden with explosives. As they advanced, SEALs used plastic zip ties to handcuff every adult they came across before ushering them to a holding area out of harm’s way. In all, 23 children were found. None were hurt. 

By twenty-five minutes into the mission, Panetta sill had no word from McRaven. The President and his team huddled in the West Wing of the White House anxiously waiting for updates that weren’t coming. The roll of the dice Obama had made on this mission was threatening to come up snake eyes. 

SEALs penetrated into the main building, checking inside closets and under beds, shouting “clear” as each room was deemed safe for entry. A small arsenal of guns was uncovered and immediately confiscated. The raiders stormed up the stairs, certain their quarry was within reach. 

"It was probably the most anxiety-filled periods of times," John Brennan later told reporters during a White House briefing the morning after the assault. "The minutes passed like days, and the President was very concerned about the security of our personnel."

Then came the words they had been hoping for: “Visual on Geronimo.” Bin Laden had been spotted. 

Bursting into a third floor bedroom, a woman charged at them, crying out her husband’s name. It was Bin Laden’s youngest wife, Amal Ahmed Abdul Fatah, a Yemeni native who, as a 15 year-old, had been given to the al-Qaeda leader as a gift by her tribal family. The now 29 year-old Amal, lived in the compound with Bin Laden and their three children, a daughter and two sons. In a fury, she rushed one of the SEALs in a futile attempt to protect her husband and was shot in the leg, but not killed. Fearing she may be wearing a suicide vest, she was dragged away from the room. From across the hall, Bin Laden and Amal’s 13 year-old daughter witnessed everything. 

Though vastly outnumbered, Bin Laden resisted capture. He made a threatening move, assumed to be an attempt to reach one of the AK-47s found in the bedroom. Unfortunately for the al-Qaeda leader, that move ended up being his last. A split-second decision by at least one of the SEALs to fire, resulted in Bin Laden taking two bullets; one slug to the chest and another to the left eye, blowing away part of his skull. 

The once-mighty leader of the world’s most-feared terrorist organization lay dead in his own bedroom with this blood and brains leaking onto the floor. 

Even though they had heard Amal shout out Bin Laden’s name, positive identification was still necessary. The SEALs had come fully prepared for any contingency, but the one thing none of the raiders brought was a tape measure to size up the famously tall Bin Laden. Improvising, one of the SEALs lay down next to Bin Laden’s corpse to ascertain that the man they had just killed was approximately 6’ 4” in height. Moments later, a gruesome photograph of the body was taken digitally and uploaded to a facial recognition program.  

Back at the White House, the President tensely awaited news. Had years of intel and guesswork finally paid off or had they gone down the rabbit hole and found nothing? Finally, a coded message came across the radio from the SEAL team, “Geronimo-E KIA.”

E stood for “enemy” and KIA for “Killed in Action.” 

“We got him,” said the President. 

When the smoke cleared, several enemy combatants had been killed including the courier Abu Ahmed, his brother, Bin Laden’s 22 year-old son Khalid and a woman later identified as Ahmed’s wife who had been caught in the crossfire. 

Not one single U.S. casualty was suffered in the assault. 

While scrubbing Bin Laden’s compound for evidence of possible future terrorist attacks, the SEAL team turned up a treasure trove of intel. Ten cell phones, ten computers and over a hundred different thumb drives were confiscated during the 40-minute raid. 

One can only imagine what was on Osama Bin Laden’s computer. 

Up to the very last, Bin Laden had prepared for the possibility of a hasty escape. Sewn into his clothing were 500 Euros and two secret phone numbers. 

By now the assault team had long overstayed their welcome. It was time for a hasty and improvised exit. McRaven gave the orders to destroy the damaged helicopter. Explosives were quickly placed inside the damages stealth Black Hawk and detonated. One of the Chinooks landed on the street. Quickly, the SEALs were forced to carry Bin Laden’s body out on foot; a decidedly humiliating ending for a man that swore that he would never be taken dead or alive by American forces.