South African President Jacob Zuma announced on Thursday night the death of Nelson Mandela. He was 95.
"Our nation has lost its greatest son," Zuma said in announcing Mandela's death on South African television. The iconic leader of the country's struggle against racism and its first post-apartheid president, Mandela died after a long battle with lung disease, an aftereffect of the tuberculosis he contracted during his 27-year imprisonment.
While Mandela's health has been in decline during the past several months, his death on Thursday nonetheless came as a shock and sparked an outpouring of grief.
Here's how Twitter reacted to his death:
A great light has gone out in the world. Nelson Mandela was a hero of our time. I've asked for the flag at No10 to be flown at half mast.— David Cameron (@David_Cameron) December 5, 2013
Nelson Mandela: a man so brave and so righteous that the entire world feels orphaned by his death.— Laila Lalami (@LailaLalami) December 5, 2013
A man once called a "terrorist" will be mourned by every right-thinking person in the entire world today.— Christopher Hayes (@chrislhayes) December 5, 2013
Let's never forget #Mandela's courage once made him despised & feared. The long road to icon-hood is paved w/ persecution & sacrifice.— Wajahat Ali (@WajahatAli) December 5, 2013
1 was convinced Nelson Mandela would NEVER get out of prison. When he did, and became President, I decided right then anything was possible.— Michael Moore (@MMFlint) December 5, 2013
Nelson Mandela's response to inhumanity was humanity. There has been no more beautiful act in my lifetime. I weep.— Dan Froomkin (@froomkin) December 5, 2013
Nelson Mandela was the embodiment of discipline, courage, love and forgiveness. "There is no future without forgiveness"-@NelsonMandela— Mike Tyson (@MikeTyson) December 5, 2013
#Mandela's decision to turn toward liberalism, away from revenge & grievance was the most beautiful political decision of the 20th century.— Sohrab Ahmari (@SohrabAhmari) December 5, 2013
RIP Nelson Mandela. "Only free men can negotiate; prisoners cannot enter into contracts. Your freedom and mine cannot be separated."— Iyad El-Baghdadi (@iyad_elbaghdadi) December 5, 2013
Here a handwritten draft page from Nelson Mandela's memoirs: pic.twitter.com/anhYl3u47w— Michael Beschloss (@BeschlossDC) December 5, 2013
One of blessings of being journalist: met Mandela. Best was him mercilessly teasing the more straitlaced Kofi Annan in a hotel corridor.— Ewen MacAskill (@ewenmacaskill) December 5, 2013
To get a sense of just how signficant an event this is to South Africa, consider these tweets from Lydia Polgreen, the New York Times bureau chief in Johannesburg.
My insurance company just texted me: "Mandela passed."— Lydia Polgreen (@lpolgreen) December 5, 2013
At the bars near my home in Johannesburg, multiracial crowds of drunken college kids on Christmas break share hugs, disbelief at Mandela.— Lydia Polgreen (@lpolgreen) December 5, 2013
There is perfect silence outside my house. Not even a car driving by.— Lydia Polgreen (@lpolgreen) December 5, 2013
Then there were those who will probably be regretting their tweets tomorrow:
R.I.P. Nelson Mandela, subject of Weinstein Co’s Idris Elba-starrer 'Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom' which opened Nov 29 and has awards buzz.— Nikki Finke (@NikkiFinke) December 5, 2013
From Brittany Storoz, an interactive developer at the New York Times:
Weird I thought Nelson Mandela had been dead for years. How sad, again.— Brittany Storoz (@brittanystoroz) December 5, 2013
Nelson Mandela "was a master of social media before the term existed." http://t.co/Fmo9dNwA7S— Fast Company (@FastCompany) December 5, 2013
Nelson #Mandela Tango Down. RIP sweet prince.— Anonymous Operations (@YourAnonCentral) December 5, 2013
Nelson Mandela god bless you forever you forever Iron Sheik class— The Iron Sheik (@the_ironsheik) December 5, 2013
An earlier version of this post included a fake tweet attributed to the heiress Paris Hilton. Here are her actual tweets from Thursday night:
Just landed. ?? I'm in Miami bitch! ?????????????? @ Miami http://t.co/OdPnuT5ri8— Paris Hilton (@ParisHilton) December 5, 2013
Just landed & heard the sad new about Nelson Mandela. He was a true Hero & the world is a better place because of him. May he rest in peace.— Paris Hilton (@ParisHilton) December 5, 2013
TREVOR SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images