Archive for Friday, September 14, 2001

Bush calls reservists to active duty

President: America to meet its ‘responsibility to history’

September 14, 2001

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— President Bush assured a country wounded by terrorism on Friday that America would meet its "responsibility to history" and "rid the world of evil." He approved the call-up of thousands of reservists, and Congress posted a $40 billion down payment to rebuild and retaliate.

Visiting New York under wartime-style security, the president saw firsthand the utter devastation wrought by terrorists who flew jetliners into the World Trade Center twin towers on Tuesday.



"This nation is peaceful but fierce when stirred to anger," Bush said earlier in the day at a prayer service in the nation's capital. "This conflict was begun on the timing and terms of others. It will end in a way and at an hour of our choosing."

Bush spoke to a nation in mourning for the loss of an estimated 5,000 souls who perished in the attacks on the Trade Center and the Pentagon outside Washington. "We will read all these names and linger over them and learn their stories, and many Americans will weep," he said.

Administration officials have identified Osama bin Laden as the main suspect behind this week's attacks. The FBI released the names of 19 men it said had hijacked four planes. One crashed in rural Pennsylvania, apparently after passengers struggled with the hijackers.

Bush addressed the nationally televised service on a day he declared should be marked by prayer and remembrance. A few hours later, he arrived in the New York area to join Gov. George Pataki and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani for a tour of the devastation.

Warplanes flew overhead to ensure security as Bush's helicopter made a slow circle over the wreckage. Awaiting him on the ground was an army of search and rescue workers. Some placed small American flags on their earth-moving equipment; one strapped Old Glory to the back of his heavy work jacket.

Rain fell earlier in the day on the wreckage of the Trade Center and on the wounded Pentagon where an estimated 190 people died dampening the ruins and the efforts of search crews. "There's no question they're hampered by it," said Giuliani. "At the same time, they're going on, because there is still a strong hope that we'll be able to recover people."

Bush signed an order authorizing the call-up of as many as 50,000 members of the National Guard and Reserves, and officials said the first mobilizations could begin this weekend.

Two government officials familiar with the president's plans stressed that the call-up was not part of a military mobilization aimed at terrorists. Instead, they said Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld wants the troops to support air patrols over New York and Washington and remain alert elsewhere in the country.

Congress showed its resolve, the Senate voting 96-0 for the money to rebuild and to wage war on terrorism, and the House concurring, 422-0. Lawmakers also moved toward passage of a companion bill to endorse Bush's still-emerging plans for a military response. That bill cleared the Senate 98-0, with a House vote set for Saturday.

In addition, aides in both parties said lawmakers are considering possible legislation to provide direct federal assistance to the airlines and insurance industries. Two aides, speaking on condition of anonymity, put the airline bill price tag at $2.5 billion.

The airlines have been hurt by the shutdown of the nation's airports and are expecting a long-term reduction in air travel by nervous travelers. Some insurance companies are sure to suffer big losses as a result of the devastation.

Bush and most of his immediate predecessors gathered under the soaring ceiling of the cathedral. Vice President Dick Cheney, whisked out of Washington to Camp David on Thursday, was alone among the nation's senior political leaders in missing the service.

In a symbolic gesture, a Muslim cleric, Imam Muzammil H. Siddiqi, was among the first to speak. The Rev. Billy Graham, his walk slowed by age but his voice strong, said the nation's spirit would not be broken by a "cruel plot." To many of the nation's political and military leaders, past and present, he added, "We're facing a new kind of enemy. We're involved in a new kind of warfare. And we need the spirit of God."

Among those in attendance was Solicitor General Theodore Olson, mourning the loss of his wife, a passenger on one of the doomed jetliners.

Bush spoke poignantly but with resolve. "We are here in the middle hour of our grief," he said. He offered sympathies to the relatives and friends of the victim, then turned his remarks to the nation's future.

"Our responsibility to history is already clear," he said. "To answer these attacks and rid the world of evil."

Recovery was uneven at best.

Authorities kept the New York stock markets shut another day and slowly very slowly brought the nation's air traffic system back to life. Three New York area airports were reopened for the second time, after having been shut down on Thursday at the request of law enforcement authorities. Major sporting events were canceled through the weekend, including the complete National Football League schedule.

Information in the hands of the government "suggests we haven't seen the end of this current threat," said one U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity. He cited concerns that terrorists may strike in a different manner now that airport security has been improved.

The body count, meanwhile, was grim and getting grimmer.

Giuliani said 4,763 people were reported missing at the World Trade Center site, where hijackers flew two jetliners fully loaded with fuel into the twin towers Tuesday morning. There were 184 confirmed fatalities.

Authorities said they expected 190 deaths at the Pentagon, where a third plane blew a hole in one side of the nation's five-sided defense nerve center. A fourth hijacked plane crashed in a rural area of Pennsylvania, with 65 aboard.

Investigators recovered the voice and data recorders from the jet that slammed into the Pentagon.

The recorders could contain information about the last minutes of the hijacked commercial jetliners. "We're hoping it will have some information pertinent to what happened on the plane," FBI Special Agent Bill Crowley said. "This development is going to help a lot."

The data recorder from the jet that crashed in Pennsylvania was recovered on Thursday.

Officials said the FBI also has a transcript of communications between the pilots and air traffic controllers for a portion of that flight. It has not been made public.

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