NEW YORK (AP) – With words of comfort and resolve, President Bush joined the nation yesterday in remembering “a year of sorrow, of empty places” since the terrorist attacks that killed thousands and drew America into war. He vowed victory over “history’s latest gang of fanatics.”
The Statue of Liberty and a forever-altered skyline were at his back as Bush spoke from Ellis Island, the first stop of immigrants and a symbol of American tolerance and independence.
“This nation has defeated tyrants, liberated death camps and raised this lamp of liberty to every captive land,” Bush said.
“We have no intention of ignoring or appeasing history’s latest gang of fanatics trying to murder their way to power. They are discovering, as others before them, the resolve of a great democracy.”
The emotional return to New York was his final stop in a daylong tour of the three sites scarred by terrorism – a rebuilt and now unblemished Pentagon, a field of golden grass in Pennsylvania and the dusty, seven-story-deep hole where the trade center towers once soared.
“In the ruins of two towers, under a flag unfurled at the Pentagon, at the funerals of the lost, we have made a sacred promise to ourselves and the world: We will not relent until justice is done and our nation is secured. What our enemies have begun, we will finish,” Bush said.
At each of Bush’s stops, the sky was clear and blue – as it was a year ago when terrorists shattered the peace.
His every move was accompanied by stringent security as the nation remained on high alert for another attack.
Vice President Dick Cheney was at an undisclosed location and planned to stay there at least until Friday.
Armed anti-aircraft missiles were deployed around the nation’s capital and military aircraft patrolled the skies over a dozen cities as the nation paused in solemn tribute.
Bright TV lights bathed an American flag flying over Bush’s left shoulder and the Statue of Liberty over his right as the president reached for symbolism in his setting.
“The ideal of America is the hope of all mankind. That hope drew millions to this harbor. That hope still lights our way. And the light shines in the darkness. And the darkness will not overcome it,” he said.
Bush put the fight against terrorism in stark moral tones.
He did not mention Saddam Hussein, but officials said he had the Iraqi leader in mind when he said: “We will not allow any terrorist or tyrant to threaten civilization with weapons of mass murder.”
He attempts today to convince reluctant United Nations allies that Saddam must be toppled, with military action if necessary.
Shortly before the address, with tears brimming in his eyes, Bush lingered nearly two hours in the dirt where the footing of New York’s World Trade Center north tower once stood. He embraced fathers and sons, kissed mothers and daughters and wives of the more than 2,800 people killed there last Sept. 11 after hijacked airliners sliced through the twin towers.
“We have seen the images so many times they are seared on our souls, and remembering the horror, reliving the anguish, re-imagining the terror, is hard – and painful,” Bush said. “For those who lost loved ones, it has been a year of sorrow, of empty places.”
Before arriving in New York, the president laid a wreath in the Shanksville, Pa., field where United Airlines Flight 93 crashed, killing 40 passengers and crew.
Its passengers are believed to have rushed the cockpit to prevent terrorists from slamming the plane into a Washington target – the Capitol or the White House.
Many White House officials believe their lives were saved by the heroic act, and they gathered with Bush for a silent tribute in the field rimmed by rolling hills.
There, too, Bush greeted dozens of mourners, the soft voices of a military choir consecrating the landscape.
Earlier, Bush dedicated the newly rebuild Pentagon, his eyes tearing as he said he Pledge of Allegiance alongside children and construction workers.
“In every turn of this war, we will always remember how it began, and who fell first – the thousands who went to work, boarded a plane or reported to their post,” Bush said at the Pentagon. “The nation pays our respects to them. Here and in Pennsylvania and in New York, we honor each name, each life.”
When the jetliner tore through the building’s west wall, 189 were killed, including the five hijackers.
“What happened to our nation on a September day set in motion the first great struggle of the century,” Bush said.
In the audience, Pentagon secretary Dorothy Powell summed up the feelings of many: “I still can’t get over that this actually happened in America.”
Bush recalled that day, too, and said America owes the Sept. 11 victims its best.
“Tomorrow is September 12th. A milestone is passed, and a mission goes on. Be confident. Our country is strong. And our cause is even larger than our country,” he said.
Church bells tolled throughout Washington at 8:46 a.m. EDT, the moment the first hijacked airliner struck the World Trade Center. Bush joined his staff on the White House lawn for a moment of silence.
Members of Congress gathered on the Capitol steps to sing “God Bless America” as they had one year ago in a spontaneous demonstration of the nation’s resolve.
At the Pentagon, the grim-faced Bush sought to rally the military already battling al-Qaida terrorists and preparing for possible action against Iraq..