- The Washington Times - Friday, September 14, 2001

President Bush, his eyes brimming with tears, said yesterday "this is a terrible moment" for America and agreed to come to New York City today "to thank and hug and cry with the citizens" of a virtual war zone.
Answering questions from reporters in the Oval Office, Mr. Bush displayed more public emotion than at any other time in his presidency. He became particularly choked up when asked whether he is praying for himself.
"Well, I don't think about myself right now," he said. "I think about the families, the children."
As the president paused, his eyes grew moist and his face seemed to involuntarily crease into a deep frown. "I am a loving guy," he managed. "And I am also someone, however, who has got a job to do. And I intend to do it."
He added resolutely: "This is a terrible moment. But this country will not relent until we have saved ourselves and others from the terrible tragedy that came upon America."
Mr. Bush was so overcome with emotion that he strode from the room to end the question-and-answer session. Normally, the press is ushered from the Oval Office while the president stays put.
"It was a defining moment of his presidency," said a reporter who was in the Oval Office. "It seemed a moment in which the full weight of the office of the presidency was felt."
The president and his wife, first lady Laura Bush, then traveled to Washington Hospital Center for a similarly emotional visit with victims of Tuesday's terrorist attack against the Pentagon.
White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, who accompanied the president to the hospital's burn unit, described the scene in one patient's room. "The president met with one family where a mother stood by the bed of her son, in the company of the soldier who rescued her son," Mr. Fleischer recalled. "And she said: — Mr. President, you have no idea how much this means to my family that you are here.'
"He and Mrs. Bush were very touched by the courage that they saw," Mr. Fleischer added.
After the visit, Mr. Bush returned to the White House, where continued concerns about attacks against the executive mansion prompted the Secret Service to move Vice President Richard B. Cheney to Camp David. Agents did not want the president and vice president in the same building in case of attack.
As a precaution, the security perimeter of the White House was enlarged to the point where tourists were cleared from a block of Pennsylvania Avenue and from LaFayette Park across the street from the North Lawn.
The administration, which has been criticized for shuttling the president from one Air Force base to another in the hours after Tuesday's attacks, yesterday seemed eager to demonstrate that Mr. Bush would not be easily frightened away from the White House.
The president spent much of the day meeting with congressional leaders and consulting by telephone with world leaders who, he said, "express their solidarity with this nation's intention to rout out and to whip terrorism."
Members of Congress from Virginia met with Mr. Bush yesterday to discuss not only the recovery efforts at the Pentagon, but also the country's response to the terrorist attack that left at least 190 persons dead at the military complex.
Rep. James P. Moran, Virginia Democrat and sometimes critic of Mr. Bush's policies, said the president "was clearly resolute" about finding who committed the acts of war and "exhibited presidential stature and was in command of the facts."
"He has conducted himself as a world leader should," Mr. Moran said.
Sen. John W. Warner, Virginia Republican, said he was preparing a Senate resolution to show support of Mr. Bush and any decision he makes as commander in chief during this time of war — just as he did for Mr. Bush's father during the 1991 Persian Gulf war.
"He clearly has a mission in mind to strike back at who are responsible," Mr. Warner said, adding that the president "was calm and listened to everyone."
The president also held a conference call with New York Gov. George E. Pataki and New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani. The press was allowed to listen in on the conversation, during which the president accepted an invitation to tour New York today.
"I weep and mourn with America," the president said as cameras rolled. "I wish I could comfort every single family whose lives have been affected."
"But make no mistake about it, my resolve is steady and strong about winning this war that has been declared on America," he added. "It's a new kind of war. And this government will adjust."
Before departing for New York, Mr. Bush planned to visit the Washington National Cathedral for a prayer service. He declared today a national day of "prayer and remembrance" for victims of the terrorist attacks. He urged employers to allow workers to spend their lunch hours at noontime prayer services.
Meanwhile, a senior administration official told reporters at the White House that Mr. Bush will counter Tuesday's terrorist attacks with an ambitious, multiyear strategy, not a one-time retaliatory strike that would be over in a matter of days.
The president himself refused to disclose specifics on any retaliatory strategy.
Although most experts suspect Islamic extremists orchestrated the attacks, Mr Bush reminded Americans that mainstream Muslims abhor such violence.
"Our nation must be mindful that there are thousands of Arab-Americans who live in New York City who love their flag just as much as the three of us do," he said, referring to himself, Mr. Pataki and Mr. Giuliani. "And we must be mindful that as we seek to win the war that we treat Arab-Americans and Muslims with the respect they deserve."
He added: "We should not hold one who is a Muslim responsible for an act of terror. We will hold those who are responsible for the terrorist acts accountable, and those who harbor them."
But he acknowledged the task will not be easy.
"Unlike previous war, this enemy likes to hide," Mr. Bush said. "These people can't stand freedom. They hate our values. They hate what America stands for."
During a busy day in which he acknowledged his domestic agenda would take a back seat to addressing the terrorist attacks, Mr. Bush directed Attorney General John Ashcroft to expedite benefit payments to police and fire officials and their families.
He also vouched for the safety of U.S. air travel, even going so far to say that he would recommend this mode of transportation to his own family members. But later in the day, as airports slowly began to resume operations, police arrested several people with fake airline credentials.
Meanwhile, the White House released a letter that Mrs. Bush wrote on Wednesday to middle and high school students across the nation.
"I want to reassure you that there are many people — including your family, your teachers, and your school counselors — who are there to listen to you," she wrote. "As we mourn those who died, let us remember that as Americans, we can be proud and confident that we live in a country that symbolizes freedom and opportunity to millions throughout the world."
"Our nation is strong, and our people resilient," she added. "We have a well-earned reputation for pulling together in the worst of times to help each other."
Daniel Drummond contributed to this report.


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