America's bloodiest day
Bush asks Americans to turn to Scripture
|||Text of president's address|
WASHINGTON President Bush 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, Bush said the United States would find and punish "those behind these evil acts," and any country that harbors them.
Bush spoke from the Oval Office just hours after bouncing between Florida and air bases in Louisiana and Nebraska for security reasons. Fighter jets and decoy helicopters accompanied his flight to Washington and the White House, where his Marine One helicopter briefly stood vigil on the South Lawn in the event of another evacuation.
With smoke still pouring out of rubble in Washington and New York, Bush declared: "These acts shattered steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve."
He spoke for less than five minutes from the desk that Bill Clinton and John F. Kennedy used before him. Beside the door, a TelePrompTer operator fed Bush the words that he and his speechwriters penned just an hour earlier.
Immediately afterward, Bush joined a late-night meeting of his National Security Council. He planned to remain overnight at the White House.
Bush said the government offices deserted after the bombings would open today.
He asked the nation to pray for the families of the victims and quoted the Book of Psalms, "And I pray they will be comforted by a power greater than any of us spoken through the ages in Psalm 23. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil for you are with me."
The president added: "We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.
"Today, our fellow citizens, our way of life, our very freedom, came under attack in a series of deliberate and deadly terrorist acts."
The Oval Office address was his third statement on the tragedy that, being unaware of any hijackings, he first took as a single plane "that went off course," White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said.
Bush began his day in Sarasota, Fla., where he intended to talk about education. The remarks were scrapped, Bush headed to Louisiana's Barksdale Air Force Base and, in mid-flight, authorized Vice President Dick Cheney to put the U.S. military on high alert worldwide.
Bush made a brief statement from Barksdale, assuring Americans that he was in regular contact with his command post in Washington: Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the White House national security team.
Shuttled across the base in a camouflaged Humvee, Bush boarded Air Force One at 1:30 p.m. EDT for a secret destination that turned out to be Nebraska's Offutt Air Force Base, home to the U.S. Strategic Command, which controls the nation's nuclear weapons.
Before his return to the White House at dusk, Bush advisers were sensitive to any appearance that he was not at the helm.
Fleischer said Bush wanted to be in Washington, where Cheney led the crisis operations center at the White House, but "he understands that at a time like this, caution must be taken" with his location.
At the first reports of attacks on New York's World Trade Center, Bush said he would rush back to Washington. Instead, he was diverted to Louisiana after a plane slammed into the Pentagon.
First lady Laura Bush and a handful of aides were whisked by motorcade to a secret location away from the White House. The president and first lady's daughters, Barbara and Jenna, also were moved to secure locations.
Text of President Bush's televised national address from the Oval Office yesterday after terrorist attacks across the East Coast earlier in the day:
Today, our fellow citizens, our way of life, our very freedom came under attack in a series of deliberate and deadly terrorist acts. The victims were in airplanes or in their offices: secretaries, businessmen and women, military and federal workers, moms and dads, friends and neighbors.
Thousands of lives were suddenly ended by evil, despicable acts of terror.
The pictures of airplanes flying into buildings, fires burning, huge structures collapsing have filled us with disbelief, terrible sadness and a quiet, unyielding anger.
These acts of mass murder were intended to frighten our nation into chaos and retreat. But they have failed. Our country is strong. A great people has been moved to defend a great nation.
Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve.
America was targeted for attack because we're the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world.
And no one will keep that light from shining.
Today, our nation saw evil, the very worst of human nature, and we responded with the best of America, with the daring of our rescue workers, with the caring for strangers and neighbors who came to give blood and help in any way they could.
Immediately following the first attack, I implemented our government's emergency response plans. Our military is powerful, and it's prepared. Our emergency teams are working in New York City and Washington, D.C., to help with local rescue efforts.
Our first priority is to get help to those who have been injured and to take every precaution to protect our citizens at home and around the world from further attacks.
The functions of our government continue without interruption. Federal agencies in Washington, which had to be evacuated today, are reopening for essential personnel tonight and will be open for business tomorrow.
Our financial institutions remain strong, and the American economy will be open for business as well.
The search is under way for those who are behind these evil acts.
I've directed the full resources for our intelligence and law enforcement communities to find those responsible and bring them to justice. We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.
I appreciate so very much the members of Congress who have joined me in strongly condemning these attacks. And on behalf of the American people, I thank the many world leaders who have called to offer their condolences and assistance.
America and our friends and allies join with all those who want peace and security in the world, and we stand together to win the war against terrorism.
Tonight, I ask for your prayers for all those who grieve, for the children whose worlds have been shattered, for all whose sense of safety and security has been threatened. And I pray they will be comforted by a power greater than any of us, spoken through the ages in Psalm 23: "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil for you are with me."
This is a day when all Americans from every walk of life unite in our resolve for justice and peace. America has stood down enemies before, and we will do so this time.
None of us will ever forget this day, yet we go forward to defend freedom and all that is good and just in our world.
Thank you. Good night, and God bless America.