Man who live-tweeted Osama bin Laden raid to talk at Eckerd College on Tuesday

Published March 5, 2012

ST. PETERSBURG — Sohaib Athar didn't set out to record history when he live-tweeted the strange sounds — a helicopter flying overhead, then an explosion — he heard last year in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

Only later would Athar and the world learn that the IT consultant was describing the U.S. raid on Osama bin Laden's compound as it happened on May 2, 2011. Now Athar will share his story in a Tuesday evening discussion at Eckerd College's Fox Hall at 7:30 p.m.

The discussion, called "Tweeting Osama's Death: From Citizen to Journalist," will be moderated by Steve Myers, managing editor for, the website of the Poynter Institute, which owns the Tampa Bay Times.

Athar's first tweet about the raid on his Twitter handle @ReallyVirtual read: "Helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1AM (is a rare event.)" He became an instant media celebrity, his Twitter followers jump from 750 to about 86,000, and news organizations all over the world clamored to talk to him.

Athar has been dubbed a "citizen journalist" for unknowingly live-tweeting the events that led to the death of the al Qaeda's leader. The event is free and open to the public and is sponsored by the Eckerd College Organization of Students and Poynter.