NEW YORK (AP) President Bush, touring the World Trade Center”s smoking rubble two months after suicide hijackings, called on Americans to remember “the terrible harm that an enemy can inflict” as they reflect anew on the sacrifices of their military.
In a Veterans Day tribute, the commander in chief said attacks on New York, Washington and Pennsylvania deepened the nation”s debt to soldiers who fight abroad and police and firefighters who serve at home.
“The great purpose of our great land … is to rid the world of evil and terror,” Bush said at a Veterans Day breakfast as he thumped the lectern.
“Evil ones have roused a mighty nation, a mighty land. And for however long it takes, I am determined that we will prevail. And prevail we must, because we fight for one thing and that is the freedom of our people and the freedom of people everywhere.”
Several hundred veterans, uniformed soldiers and police jumped to their feet and filled a cavernous military armory building with applause. The speech, Bush”s first Veterans Day address as president, were his only public remarks on the final day of his two-day U.N. visit.
He met privately with the presidents of South Africa, Argentina and Colombia before attending a U.N. ceremony at the site of the collapsed twin towers in lower Manhattan.
Actor Ron Silver methodically read the names of each country that lost citizens in the Sept. 11 attacks. An honor guard carried each country”s flag and planted it in stanchions set in front of the dignitaries.
Bush, his eyes watery, either by tears or the stinging smoke wafting up from the rubble, walked over to a wall listing the names of the nations.
Just beneath the name of the United States, he wrote, “Good will triumph over evil. May God bless all of us. George W. Bush.”
It was Bush”s first visit to the site since Sept. 14, when he waded into the ruins with a bullhorn in one hand and an American flag in the other.