America's Response

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Chapter Two
America's Response

In the first hours and days after the attacks of September 11, 2001, most Americans remained shocked. New Yorkers, in particular, were stunned by the hole the fallen towers had left in the city's skyline. One New York radio commentator said September 11 was the worst day in the city's history. Indeed, as several news reporters pointed out, it was the deadliest day on American soil since the Civil War.

Almost immediately, President George W. Bush and New York City mayor Rudy Guiliani stepped forward and provided leadership. Both men remained visible during the early days of the crisis. Bush gave several speeches following September 11 in which he reassured Americans that the full resources of the U.S. government would be used to find the people responsible for the attacks. He also created the Office of Homeland Security, a new cabinet position whose mission is to protect the United States against future terrorist attacks. Guiliani, whose term expired December 31, 2001, often appeared at Ground Zero, the site where the World Trade Center Towers once stood. His presence there reassured and comforted many New Yorkers.

Ordinary Americans were also eager to help. The American Red Cross received so many offers of blood donations that it had to turn people away. An unprecedented outpouring of contributions flowed into numerous charities set up to help the families of victims. In the first week after the attacks, scores of charities, including the Red Cross, the September 11 Fund, and the Liberty Fund, had received pledges and donations of more than $200 million, an amount that soared to approximately $1.5 billion by the end of the year. Whether with money, blood donations, or solid leadership, Americans and their elected officials, although shocked and saddened, responded to the September 11 attacks by being ready and willing to help wherever they could.

The President Addresses the Nation

George W. Bush, the forty-third president of the United States, was visiting a Florida elementary school when the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were attacked by terrorists. Shortly after his return to the White House, Bush spoke to the nation. Excerpted below is the speech in which he consoles Americans and reassures them that the United States will recover from the attack.

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 shattered 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 of our intelligence and law enforcement communities to find those responsible and to 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.

From "Statement by the President in His Address to the Nation,"by George W. Bush, September 11, 2001.

Our Darkest Day, Our Finest Hour

New York City was devastated by the attacks on the World Trade Center. The Twin Towers, once a seemingly invincible symbol of the city, lay in ruins, and thousands of people were dead or missing. In his weekly column, New York City mayor Rudy Guiliani discusses the tragedy.

On September 11, New York City suffered the darkest day in our long history. The destruction of the World Trade Center, and the resulting loss of thousands of lives, has broken our City's heart. But our heart still beats and our City remains strong. We will emerge from this stronger than we have ever been before.

This vicious, unprovoked attack on our City, and our Nation, demonstrates the depths of human cowardice and cruelty. Yet the reaction of New Yorkers to this tragedy has shown us the heights of human generosity and courage. Within moments after the first plane struck, ordinary men and women showed extraordinary bravery in assisting one another to safety, even at the cost of their own lives. Our Fire Fighters and Police Officers have personified courage, and though the losses to their ranks have been terrible, they have set the example for the rest of us by continuing to work with renewed vigor.

The Fire Department, in particular, has suffered greatly. More than 300 members of the Department are dead or missing as of this writing, and we have already held funerals for three of the most beloved and valued members of New York's Bravest: Chief Peter Ganci; First Deputy Commissioner William Feehan; and Father Mychal Judge. These legendary leaders and their many courageous fallen colleagues will never be forgotten.

This tragedy, along with the nearly simultaneous bombing of the Pentagon in Washington and the crash of a hijacked commercial plane near Pittsburgh, has touched the lives of millions of people throughout our City, across the Nation, and around the world. Family members, friends, and coworkers have been suddenly taken from us. This enormous loss provokes our sadness, and it also stirs a sense of outrage and anger. President Bush is right to call this an act of war. He is also right to declare that the terrorist enemies of the United States will face retaliation. Basic justice—and the national interest—demand no less.

Yet even as we mourn our dead and prepare for what could be a long and bitter war against an elusive enemy, let us always remember that our greatest national strengths are our openness, our diversity, our inclusiveness, and our freedom. These are the assets that our terrorist foes seek to destroy, but these are also the values that will guarantee our eventual and total victory. The people of the City of New York will demonstrate that we are stronger than these barbarians. We are not going to participate in group blame or group hatred, because those are the sicknesses that caused this tragedy. Our City is going to continue to honor its immigrant heritage. Through the strength of our example, we are going to send the message that life in our City goes on, undeterred. We will continue to embody the highest ideals of America.

I have always had full confidence in the people of this City, and that confidence has risen even higher as I have watched the behavior of New Yorkers in the wake of this tragedy. They evacuated the scene of destruction in good order; they almost immediately formed long lines to donate blood; they have made generous corporate and individual donations of money and supplies; they have offered welcome encouragement and solace to the relatives of the missing and to our exhausted rescue workers. We are a united City, and I have never been so proud to be a New Yorker.

From "Our Darkest Day; Our Finest Hour,"by Rudy Guiliani, Mayor's Weekly Column, September 24, 2001.

America Has Withstood This Attack

The terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and Flight 93 were unprecedented in American history. Even so, say the editors of the Los Angeles Times in the following excerpt, America and democracy continue to stand strong.

On Tuesday [September 11, 2001], civilization's modern nightmare materialized as terrorists attacked American cities, destroying national landmarks and exacting a terrible human toll. But even as smoke billowed across Manhattan and dust settled over Washington, this mighty nation was shaking off the massive blow.

Buildings collapsed. Democracy stands. The tragedy unfolded on live television, offering the world a lesson in courage and resolve. As terror and chaos advanced, determined forces stepped forward to restore calm.

The treacherous acts of demented minds led to families shattered, dreams crushed, loves lost—the unwritten futures canceled by cruelty. Immediately, though, came America's reaction. Rescuers charged into doomed buildings. Police braved falling debris to aid the wounded. Reporters sought to sort rumor from fact. Pilots diverted planes and landed safely.

Evil attacked. The people withstood the assault.

Those shocking images of smoke and dust come down to this: A father, gone. A wife. A brother. Gone as utterly as the famous towers in which they worked. Gone, too, the passengers and airline crews en route to California and elsewhere.

Nationwide, people swarm blood banks, eager to have their own blood flow into the veins of those wounded by an unknown enemy. Let that enemy note that this nation of many peoples is often at odds within itself but under pressure is united; a blow against one is a blow against all.

A Watershed in the Lives of America's Children

For many parents, the most indelible image will not be of a plane smashing into a building but of children's faces as they grapple with that image, one that shattered the world they thought they knew. For a generation of young people, this is their Pearl Harbor; their Kennedy assassination. Adults surely felt that old fear rising. But across the country they slung arms around children and shared with them a wisdom taught by past tragedies."Yes, you just witnessed evil,"they told the innocents."But take heart, our world will survive."

Tuesday's attack struck at the heart of America's original melting pot, the city where for more than a hundred years people from every culture and every corner of the world have come seeking refuge, freedom and a better life. For millions, the first glimpse they got of this nation as they entered New York Harbor was the Statue of Liberty holding aloft her torch as a beacon of tolerance and freedom. These immigrants and their descendants—of every religion, race and ethnicity—have made the United States the world's most powerful nation and simultaneously its most tolerant.

Here in Los Angeles, too, our neighbors are from every corner of this troubled planet. As we garner strength by joining together in rage and sorrow, the world will see that the great experiment—e pluribus unum [out of many, one]—continues. One way it will continue will be for Americans to refrain from blaming groups for the evil acts of individuals. There must be no finger-pointing based on ethnicity or religion. If Americans turn on each other, those behind the heinous acts will be the winners.

America has been fortunate. Foreign enemies have, until now, caused little loss of life on our mainland. The bloodshed of the War for Independence paved the way for the establishment of a new nation. The traumatic mayhem of the Civil War was self-inflicted. One of the hallmarks of World War II was that, with the exception of the Pearl Harbor attack, the United States didn't live through the bitter experience of the warring European nations. For the United States, battles happened somewhere else.

Never again can this nation be quite so secure. Tuesday was a day that changed America. Just as national reorientations were required after the sinking in 1915 of the ocean liner Lusitania and after Pearl Harbor, Tuesday's attack will also change this nation.

The United States'resilience stems in part from the nation's ability to adapt. We will question what more could have been done to protect our people. We will hold accountable any who fell short in their duties. Yes, we wonder how airport safety shields could be so porous, how we could have had so little inkling of what was to come.

Terrorism has been a domestic threat for years, and yet the last FBI director identified it when he left his post as a critical concern that is still unsatisfactorily addressed.

For the moment, however, Americans are unified, looking forward. The nation could be confident that it would rebuild even as the first terrorist fires raged.

Already leaders promise that government agencies, which had to be evacuated, will reopen for essential business and that financial markets will resume doing business calmly. This is a tall order, but one that must be fulfilled.

The President Must Rise to His Greatest Challenge

When we inaugurate presidents, we ask them to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic. President Bush is undergoing his toughest test and must rise to it. He made a good first step Tuesday evening when, back in Washington, he addressed the nation. He said: "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."

Bush also identified the day's clearest heroes."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." That includes the many firefighters in New York who perished in brave attempts to save lives.

America will react, but it must do so with certainty, not guesswork, and the resolve that goes with confidence. The nation's leaders will determine who is responsible and do whatever is necessary to make sure the threat is removed. Bush importantly vowed to find and punish not just the terrorists but their backers. The decision he and Congress have to face is whether the U.S. reaction will, as in previous terrorist attacks, concentrate on legal remedies or on military retaliation or some combination....

There will be speculations and cynicism, denunciations and denials, revelations and ruminations, accusations and anger all over this land in coming days. But out of this nationwide emotional incoherence must come—will come—that democratic resolve so familiar to Americans and their friends—and so ominous to this nation's enemies.

Los Angeles Times, "U.S. Resolve: Unshattered," September 12, 2001, p. B-8.

They Were Heroes Every Day

A month after the September 11 terrorist attacks, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, spoke at a memorial service at the Pentagon honoring the military and civilian workers and the airline passengers and crew who were killed at the site. In his speech, Rumsfeld asserts that the victims were heroes to their families and friends long before they gave their lives on September 11, 2001.

We are gathered here because of what happened here on September 11th. Events that bring to mind tragedy—but also our gratitude to those who came to assist that day and afterwards, those we saw at the Pentagon site every day—the guards, police, fire and rescue workers, the Defense Protective service, hospitals, Red Cross, family center professionals and volunteers and many others.

And yet our reason for being here today is something else.

We are gathered here to remember, to console and to pray.

To remember comrades and colleagues, friends and family members—those lost to us on Sept. 11th.

We remember them as heroes. And we are right to do so. They died because—in words of justification offered by their attackers—they were Americans. They died, then, because of how they lived—as free men and women, proud of their freedom, proud of their country and proud of their country's cause—the cause of human freedom.

And they died for another reason—the simple fact they worked here in this building—the Pentagon.

It is seen as a place of power, the locus of command for what has been called the greatest accumulation of military might in history. And yet a might used far differently than the long course of history has usually known.

In the last century, this building existed to oppose two totalitarian regimes that sought to oppress and to rule other nations. And it is no exaggeration of historical judgment to say that without this building, and those who worked here, those two regimes would not have been stopped or thwarted in their oppression of countless millions.

But just as those regimes sought to rule and oppress, others in this century seek to do the same by corrupting a noble religion. Our President has been right to see the similarity—and to say that the fault, the evil is the same. It is the will to power, the urge to dominion over others, to the point of oppressing them, even to taking thousands of innocent lives—or more. And that this oppression makes the terrorist a believer—not in the theology of God, but the theology of self—and in the whispered words of temptation:"Ye shall be as Gods."

In targeting this place, then, and those who worked here, the attackers, the evildoers correctly sensed that the opposite of all they were, and stood for, resided here.

Those who worked here—those who on Sept. 11 died here—whether civilians or in uniform,—side by side they sought not to rule, but to serve. They sought not to oppress, but to liberate. They worked not to take lives, but to protect them. And they tried not to preempt God, but see to it His creatures lived as He intended—in the light and dignity of human freedom.

Our first task then is to remember the fallen as they were—as they would have wanted to be remembered—living in freedom, blessed by it, proud of it and willing—like so many others before them, and like so many today, to die for it.

And to remember them as believers in the heroic ideal for which this nation stands and for which this building exists—the ideal of service to country and to others.

Beyond all this, their deaths remind us of a new kind of evil, the evil of a threat and menace to which this nation and the world has now fully awakened, because of them.

In causing this awakening, then, the terrorists have assured their own destruction. And those we mourn today, have, in the moment of their death, assured their own triumph over hate and fear. For out of this act of terror—and the awakening it brings—here and across the globe—will surely come a victory over terrorism. A victory that one day may save millions from the harm of weapons of mass destruction. And this victory—their victory—we pledge today.

But if we gather here to remember them—we are also here to console those who shared their lives, those who loved them. And yet, the irony is that those whom we have come to console have given us the best of all consolations, by reminding us not only of the meaning of the deaths, but of the lives of their loved ones.

"He was a hero long before the eleventh of September,"said a friend of one of those we have lost—"a hero every single day, a hero to his family, to his friends and to his professional peers."

A veteran of the Gulf War—hardworking, who showed up at the Pentagon at 3:30 in the morning, and then headed home in the afternoon to be with his children.

About him and those who served with him, his wife said:"It's not just when a plane hits their building. They are heroes every day."

"Heroes every day."We are here to affirm that. And to do this on behalf of America.

And also to say to those who mourn, who have lost loved ones: Know that the heart of America is here today, and that it speaks to each one of you words of sympathy, consolation, compassion and love. All the love that the heart of America—and a great heart it is—can muster.

Watching and listening today, Americans everywhere are saying: I wish I could be there to tell them how sorry we are, how much we grieve for them. And to tell them too, how thankful we are for those they loved, and that we will remember them, and recall always the meaning of their deaths and their lives.

A Marine chaplain, in trying to explain why there could be no human explanation for a tragedy such as this, said once:"You would think it would break the heart of God."

We stand today in the midst of tragedy—the mystery of tragedy. Yet a mystery that is part of that larger awe and wonder that causes us to bow our heads in faith and say of those we mourn, those we have lost, the words of scripture:"Lord now let Thy servants go in peace, Thy word has been fulfilled."

To the families and friends of our fallen colleagues and comrades we extend today our deepest sympathy and condolences—and those of the American people.

We pray that God will give some share of the peace that now belongs to those we lost, to those who knew and loved them in this life.

But as we grieve together we are also thankful—thankful for their lives, thankful for the time we had with them. And proud too—as proud as they were—that they lived their lives as Americans.

We are mindful too—and resolute that their deaths, like their lives, shall have meaning. And that the birthright of human freedom—a birthright that was theirs as Americans and for which they died—will always be ours and our children's. And through our efforts and example, one day, the birthright of every man, woman, and child on earth.

Excerpted from remarks prepared for delivery by Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld at the Pentagon, Arlington VA, October 11, 2001.

The Faces of the Missing

Thousands of people were killed when the World Trade Center towers collapsed, buried under tons of rubble and debris. Yet many of the victims' families and friends clung to the belief that their loved ones had managed to escape the towers and were still alive. Near the towers was a site where posters and signs—featuring photos of the missing—were displayed, in the hopes that they might be recognized and found. Below, the editors of the monthly magazine Mortgage Wire urge New York City officials to allow the posters to remain.

It's hard to read the names, which firm in the World Trade Center they worked for, which floor they were on. But we hope the city fathers let the flyers stay up awhile, even though the chance of finding the people in them safe is slight.

That's because these postings are a way of making the vanished reappear, of finding the missing, in a sense, by identifying them through a few essentials: what their names were, where they worked and who they worked for, who they loved.

The pictures on the flyers are invariably beautiful, and they display the enduring innocence and the moral integrity of people going about the ... business of their lives. The loved ones are showcased in all their vitality and presence. They are not missing in these photos.

These remarkable flyers are not just requests for help. They are also requests to remember, and to appreciate. The photos in them are eloquent statements of pride in the person who is gone. They are reassuring statements of normalcy from a different world than this disorienting new one. They are heartwrenching statements that rise to a simple question:How could this awful thing happen, and why to them?

We who pass by recognize the faces of the missing. They are people we have seen on the street, in the office, on the train going home, and in the parks and on the lawns of summer.

There is a lot of ourselves in these pictures, and their mirror-like qualities can be disturbing. The people in them are our age, and their kids look like ours, and they worked in the field we cover. Inevitably they are marked "Missing,"and that's about us as well as them. We are missing them and an essential piece of our lives that's been suddenly and violently wrenched away.

These unbearably poignant snapshots are a way of making the dimensions of the disaster real, of fixing it in our memory. And memory is one way of finding and keeping the missing. At the recent telethon fundraiser for the victims of the attack, for instance, the rock musician Sting spoke so warmly of his friend Herman Sandler, the co-founder of Sandler O'Neill Mortgage Finance, that we thought we knew Mr. Sandler, and wished we had.

By keeping these remarkable pictures in mind, a new picture of the tragedy comes to mind. It's clear the only thing that collapsed on Sept. 11 was metal and concrete, not the people within. Given the strong foundations of the missing peoples'lives we've been privileged to get a glimpse of, they did not fall when the floors gave way. We think they rose instead, with the smoke that rose on that sunny day, and from those high towers they must have had a considerable head start towards the heavens.

From "The Faces of the Missing," Mortgage Wire, October 10, 2001. Copyright © 2001 by Mortgage Wire. Reprinted with permission.

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America's Response

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America's Response