- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 15, 2001

Yesterday's prayer service at the National Cathedral in Washington brought together the leaders of this country — spiritual leaders of different faiths, political leaders of different parties. The issues that divide Americans were set a side as they gathered around television sets. For the first time since the Civil War, Americans know the pain of taking major casualties on their own soil — this time inflicted by a foreign enemy. The service was an important, dignified and moving moment in a week that has changed this country for good. Don't think for a moment, though, that it had anything to do with "closure" — not a word that applies when warfare is upon the nation.
Before flying to New York, to spend the afternoon with the rescue workers at ground zero, President Bush led a congregation at the National Cathedral, which included three other former presidents and one former vice president. Invocations by interfaith religious leaders and a stirring address from the Rev. Billy Graham were followed by the president, who delivered an address that was both sober, uplifting and determined. It was the speech of a man who looked at a monumental struggle ahead, unlike any faced by previous presidents.
"Just three days removed from these events, Americans do not yet have the distance of history, but our responsibility to history is already clear: to answer these attacks and rid the world of evil. War has been waged against us by stealth and deceit and murder.
This nation is peaceful, but fierce when stirred to anger. This conflict was begun on the timing and terms of others; it will end in a way and at an hour of our choosing."
He praised the spirit of Americans. "We see our national character in rescuers working past exhaustion, in long lines of blood donors, in thousands of citizens who have asked to work and serve in any way possible. And we have seen our national character in eloquent acts of sacrifice. Inside the World Trade Center, one man who could have saved himself stayed until the end and at the side of his quadriplegic friend. A beloved priest died giving the last rites to a firefighter. Two office workers, finding a disabled stranger, carried her down 68 floors to safety. A group of men drove through the night from Dallas to Washington to bring skin grafts for burned victims. In these acts and many others, Americans showed a deep commitment to one another and an abiding love for our country."
And the president called on the nation to unite in the fight ahead. "Today, we feel what Franklin Roosevelt called 'the warm courage of national unity.' This is a unity of every faith and every background. This has joined together political parties and both houses of Congress. It is evident in services of prayer and candlelight vigils and American flags, which are displayed in pride and waved in defiance. Our unity is a kinship of grief and a steadfast resolve to prevail against our enemies. And this unity against terror is now extending across the world." Amen to that.


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