- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 15, 2001

President Bush yesterday honored those killed in Tuesday's terrorist attacks during a national day of prayer that began with a memorial service in Washington and ended with a call to arms amid the carnage of New York.
"We are here in the middle hour of our grief," Mr. Bush told a hushed and tearful crowd at the National Cathedral in Washington. "So many have suffered so great a loss, and today we express our nation's sorrow."
The president vowed a forceful response to the kamikaze terrorists who demolished New York's World Trade Center and killed scores at the Pentagon. It is "our responsibility to history," Mr. Bush said, "to answer these attacks and rid the world of evil."
Hours later in Manhattan, Mr. Bush rallied rescue workers amid the smoldering ruins of the 110-story twin towers destroyed Tuesday by Islamic extremists piloting hijacked jets.
The president told a crowd of cheering hardhats that "the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon."
"U.S.A., U.S.A.," the workers shouted in reply, as Mr. Bush stood atop a pile of rubble, draped his arm around a fireman's shoulders and waved a small American flag.
Having traded in the pinstriped suit he wore at the National Cathedral for a gray windbreaker in New York, Mr. Bush wandered the piles of twisted steel and rain-slickened concrete where workers have spent four days desperately searching through the wreckage for survivors.
As federal investigators and national security experts intensified their search for those who aided the suicidal hijackers of four airliners, Mr. Bush tended to the nation's mood, alternately soothing the mourners and exhorting the warriors.
At the National Cathedral, Mr. Bush joined four former presidents — Bill Clinton, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Mr. Bush's father — who heard the Rev. Billy Graham urge the nation to "trust in God" in the hour of crisis.
"God is going to give wisdom and courage and strength to the president and those around him," the 82-year-old Christian evangelist concluded, "and this is going to be a day that we will remember as a day of victory."
Enthusiastic applause for Mr. Graham — who had to be helped from the pulpit — was the only celebratory note in an otherwise somber service. Among the mourners was Solicitor General Theodore B. Olson, whose wife, Barbara, died when hijackers crashed American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon.
Mr. Bush paid elaborate tribute to the dead, estimated to number more than 6,000.
"Now come the names, the list of casualties we are only beginning to read," the president told those at the cathedral.
"They are the names of men and women who began their day at a desk or in an airport, busy with life. They are the names of people who faced death, and in their last moments called home to say, be brave, and I love you.
"They are the names of passengers who defied their murderers, and prevented the murder of others on the ground. They are the names of men and women who wore the uniform of the United States, and died at their posts.
"They are the names of rescuers, the ones whom death found running up the stairs and into the fires to help others.
"We will read all these names," he added. "We will linger over them, and learn their stories, and many Americans will weep."
The cavernous cathedral was deathly silent as Mr. Bush concluded his remarks and walked alone from the podium to his seat in the front pew. His father reached across the pew in front of first lady Laura Bush to grip the president's leg in a gesture of support. The president responded by grasping his father's hand.
Former Vice President Al Gore, New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and other dignitaries bowed their heads in prayer as the service drew to a close. On his way out of the service, Mr. Bush paused to shake the hand of Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat, and kiss the cheek of the senator's wife, Hadassah.
The service had begun with the Islamic prayers of an imam. Islamic extremist Osama bin Laden is suspected of masterminding Tuesday's attacks, and the imam's prayer was meant to reinforce Mr. Bush's emphasis on the fact that the vast majority of Muslims are nonviolent believers in a kind and loving God.
"With broken and humble hearts, and with tears in our eyes, we turn to you, O Lord, to give us comfort," said Muzammil Siddiqi, imam of the Islamic Society of North America. "Keep us together as people of diverse faith, color and races."
Afterward, Mr. Bush headed for New York, ignoring warnings from Secret Service and national security officials who insisted such a trip was unsafe. The Secret Service was especially nervous because its New York headquarters had been devastated in the attack.
Aboard one of the numerous helicopters used to shuttle the president's entourage to the southern tip of Manhattan, White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. revealed the words he had whispered in the president's ear after the second jetliner slammed into the World Trade Center on Tuesday.
"A second plane hit the other tower and America's under attack," Mr. Card recalled telling his boss during a visit to a second-grade class in Sarasota, Fla.Yesterday, Mr. Card told reporters "it was a surreal moment." Asked how he reacted to the shocking events, he said, "I kicked into doing my job."
Arriving amid intense security, Mr. Bush walked through the shocking moonscape of mud, garbage and mammoth mounds of steel and glass that are all that remain of the towering skyscrapers.
"I'm shocked at the size of the devastation," the president told reporters. "It's hard to describe what it's like to see the gnarled steel and broken glass and twisted buildings silhouetted against the smoke.
"I said that this was the first act of war on America in the 21st century, and I was right, particularly having seen the scene," he added. "Out of the rubbles and ash and ugliness, there is a lot of good."
Although union workers helped Mr. Gore win New York decisively in last year's presidential election, they seemed won over by Mr. Bush yesterday. The moment came when Mr. Bush jumped up on the wreckage of a firetruck and slung his arm over the shoulders of Bob Beckwith of Queens, a 69-year-old firefighter who came out of retirement to help with rescue efforts.
"A couple guys, they were crying," said Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik. "And they were thanking him for coming.
"It's great he's here," he added. "It's a good morale booster for the troops. It's fantastic."


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