- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 12, 2001

Suicidal terrorists piloting airplanes hijacked from Dulles and Boston airports toppled the 110-story twin towers of the World Trade Center and demolished part of the Pentagon yesterday in the worst terrorist attack on American soil.
Police sources estimated that thousands may have been killed in the attacks, in addition to the 266 aboard the four hijacked jets and 343 New York fire and police personnel missing and presumed dead.
President Bush told the nation in a televised address that "thousands" lost loved ones in yesterday's attacks, and late last night New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani said he "could not dispute" the president's estimate of the losses. The mayor said that the city's fire chief and deputy fire chief were among those killed.
Mr. Giuliani also said last night that people remained trapped alive under the rubble of the collapsed buildings of the World Trade Center.
Survivors were found among the ruins of the twin World Trade Center towers and officials were rushing to their aid, New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik said last night.
Mr Giuliani said late yesterday that two police officers were rescued from the rubble.
The calamitous sneak attacks in airplanes loaded with people and fuel left the nation reeling from a new day of infamy that spurred demands for speedy retaliation.
American forces were placed on wartime footing at the "highest state of alert" but the guns of the mightiest nation on Earth remained silent despite murderous assaults on the most visible symbols of American military and economic power.
The American public remained shocked and numbed after morning's well-coordinated attacks, in which four airliners were hijacked by terrorists. Two airplanes slammed into the World Trade Center, while another one hit the Pentagon — the heart of the U.S. military establishment. The fourth plane crashed in western Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh.
All U.S. commercial flights were grounded at least through noon today.
Military F-16 jet fighters were ordered to the skies to defend Washington and New York, and scrambled elsewhere as a precaution. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said that will continue for an unspecified time.
Meanwhile, White House and Pentagon officials denied any connection with explosions on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan, at about 6 p.m. Washington time, and suggested they were launched by opportunistic local resistance forces.
Federal workers in Washington and New York were sent home early as a precaution but U.S. government offices will reopen today. Stock exchanges are to remain closed one more day.
Mr. Bush vowed vengeance on the unseen enemy whose attacks were reminiscent of Pearl Harbor, and then presided over a National Security Council meeting from a secure bunker at Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, an Air Combat Command headquarters.
"Make no mistake, the United States will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly acts," said the president, who promised that "appropriate security precautions" to protect Americans were being taken.
"We will do what it takes. No one is going to diminish the spirit of this country," Mr. Bush said as he arrived back in Washington last night after a flight with three fighter escorts.
Mr. Bush in last night's televised address asked the nation to find comfort in Scripture as he mourned the deaths of thousands of Americans in yesterday's atrocities and vowed to avenge their killings. "Today, our nation saw evil," he said.
In his first prime-time Oval Office address, Mr. Bush said the United States would retaliate against "those behind these evil acts," and any country that harbors them.
From American Airlines Flight 77, which was hijacked after takeoff from Washington Dulles International Airport and crashed into the Pentagon with the loss of all aboard, Washington lawyer Barbara Olson twice used her cell phone to call her husband, U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olson.
She told him hijackers were carrying what looked like box-cutter knives. She said the 58 passengers and the flight crew, including the pilot, had been herded to the rear of the plane.
"What do I tell the pilot to do?" she asked her husband, according to CNN's Tim O'Brien. Mrs. Olson had waited a day to take that particular flight so she could have breakfast with her husband on his birthday yesterday.
She offered no hint of the hijackers' nationality or motives.
Even before Mrs. Olson's report that hijackers were flying the plane, aviation analysts said it would be unthinkable that any airline crew would fly an airliner into an occupied building.
"I can't imagine any American pilot crashing a plane into one of these buildings, even with a gun at his head," said James Kallstrom, an FBI investigator.
"I think it's clearly an act of war," said Mr. Kallstrom, who noted that the nation doesn't yet know whom it is at war with. "It's everything that Pearl Harbor was and more."
Air-traffic-control workers apparently never noticed that all four flights deviated from flight plans and were moving through and across high-risk flight paths without proper clearances.
"It was like a Cruise missile with wings. It went right into the Pentagon," said Mike Walter, who saw American Airlines Flight 77 plunge into the Pentagon while on his way to work at USA Today's television operation. "It was just sheer terror."
"It seemed to be almost coming in slow motion," said Marine Cmdr. Mike Dobbs as he watched the crash from an upper level window. "I didn't actually feel it hit, but I saw it and then we all started running."
Senators leaving an intelligence briefing last night said they were told that the pilot of another Boeing 757, United Airlines Flight 93 from Newark to San Francisco, may have crashed that plane in rural Pennsylvania when hijackers took it over and attempted to turn it around toward Washington to destroy the White House or Congress. All 45 persons aboard were killed.
Among the likely thousands of New York's still-uncounted dead were an estimated 78 police officers and 265 firefighters who swarmed to help only to be caught under tumbling debris and falling bodies when the towering infernos collapsed one after the other.
After so many rescuers were killed, many fire and police units pulled back several blocks and watched the thick black smoke pour from the wreckage all day long, its ash falling like snow and carried by winds that howled through the canyons of downtown New York's financial district.
One National Guardsman involved in the rescue effort reported finding "body parts by the thousands" amid the wreckage.
"I have a sense it's a horrendous number of lives lost," Mr. Giuliani said in a broadcast from his emergency bunker. A New York police source estimated the death toll could run in the thousands and the mayor said rescue efforts will take a week or more.
"It's still possible for us to save a lot of the people who were there," Mr. Giuliani said of the collapsed World Trade Center buildings that houses 50,000 people on most days.
Yesterday the entire 15-game professional baseball schedule was canceled, as was the primary election for New York's mayor's race — a joint action supported by Mr. Giuliani and Gov. George Pataki. Disneyland and Walt Disney World both closed as did many other entertainment centers and virtually all public gathering sites.
The 700 pounds of beef tenderloin and 400 pounds of catfish shipped from Abilene, Texas, for the annual congressional picnic to be held last night was used instead to feed relief workers. The picnic was canceled.
Federal officials speaking on the condition of anonymity said there are "good indications" that people linked to the Osama bin Laden organization are responsible for the sweeping attack, and they reportedly warned in dark humor against Americans vacationing in Afghanistan anytime soon. Afghanistan has been harboring bin Laden's terrorist network. Within hours, bombs were falling in Kabul and an apparent fuel dump was seen ablaze. The U.S. State Department denied any involvement in the attacks.
Taliban officials with an eye on their Afghanistan government being targeted by military retaliation insisted that neither they nor bin Laden, whom they call "a guest," played any role in the attacks yesterday on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Those attacks were pointedly condemned by Abdul Salam Zaeef, the Afghan ambassador to Pakistan.
"We want to tell the American children that Afghanistan feels their pain. We hope the courts find justice," the ambassador said.
There seemed to be no immediate effort to explain how such a complex plan, involving the hijacking of four long-range airliners on similar schedules with extra fuel, could be carried out with no whisper of it reaching U.S. intelligence agents.
"If there had been advance warning there would have been steps taken to interdict it," said Sen. Bob Graham, Florida Democrat, prior to a CIA briefing for the Select Committee on Intelligence of which he is chairman. He said there was "a general warning" of a terrorist attack somewhere but nothing specific, a view shared by Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.
"We have had warnings, but there are all the time warnings," Mr. Peres told CNN.
However, Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening said yesterday the head of his state police force received a list of 11 sites that had threats with what a federal official called "some degree of credibility."
In addition to the Baltimore World Trade Center and State House in Annapolis, Mr. Glendening said, the list included the New York World Trade Center and the Pentagon. He neither released the list nor specified its other targets.
"This is an act of war. As far as I'm concerned, war has been declared against the United States and we should act accordingly. There must have been thousands of people killed here, probably more than at Pearl Harbor by far," said Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican, who urged a retaliatory attack on bin Laden forces.
"We all know Osama bin Laden is doing everything he can to antagonize American forces. We should respond forcefully," Mr. Hatch said.
Many commentators likened the assault to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, the "Day of Infamy" when 353 Japanese planes caught American forces asleep at dawn, killing 2,390 persons, and disabling the Pacific fleet in an invasion that triggered U.S. entry into World War II.
Mr. Bush was first to use the word "terrorist," even before American Airlines Flight 77 bound from Dulles International Airport to Los Angeles was hijacked and driven into the Pentagon.
"Terrorism against this nation will not stand," the president said, invoking the memorable line-in-the-sand phrase that his father invoked when Saddam Hussein's forces invaded Kuwait.
The radical Islamic Jihad movement denied responsibility for the terrorism but called the attacks "a consequence of United States policy in the Middle East." Hamas also denied any involvement.
The airliner that hit the first of the World Trade Center towers at about 8:45 a.m. was the hijacked American Airlines Flight 11 from Boston to Los Angeles, carrying 92 persons.
At 9:03 a.m. United Airlines Flight 175, also a Boston to Los Angeles flight, crashed into the second tower with 65 persons aboard, sparking a colossal fireball that exploded on all four sides of the building. The second crash was televised live by CNN.
The Pentagon, with 24,000 employees, was slashed open at 9:45 a.m. by American Airlines Flight 77, which was hijacked on a flight from Dulles Airport to Los Angeles with 64 persons aboard, all of whom were feared dead.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.


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