President returns to Pentagon to salute victims, and those carrying out anti-terrorism campaign

Thursday, October 11th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ On a day of sunshine as bright as Sept. 11, President Bush, congressional leaders and victims' relatives marked the one-month anniversary Thursday of the deadliest attack in history on American soil.

``It is our message to the world that our spirit will not be broken and our hope will never be diminished,'' said Chaplain Major Gaylord Gunhus in remarks to an assembly of thousands.

The ceremony took place on the opposite side of the Pentagon from where terrorists struck one month ago. Machine gun-toting troops stood guard in camouflage.

From their seats on the grandstand, Bush and first lady Laura Bush looked out at a throng of thousands _ members of his Cabinet, members of the House and Senate and guests. A single red rose was placed on the seat of each relative of the victims of the attack, in which a hijacked jetliner crashed into the Pentagon, killing all 64 on the plane and probably 125 inside.

The Pentagon observance was the second of the day for a nation struggling still to recover from the attacks on Sept. 11. Similar ceremonies were held in New York, where the mighty twin towers of the World Trade Center crumpled after being hit by a pair of hijacked jetliners.

Bush also summoned members of his Cabinet to a White House meeting during the day, and called a prime time news conference for 8 p.m. EDT, the first of his nine-month presidency.

Mrs. Bush began the day at a Georgetown bookstore, encouraging children to read all they can about different cultures lest fear during the U.S. war on terrorists turn to prejudice and hate.

``If you can be educated about everything _ for instance, about every religion _ you can be tolerant,'' the first lady said.

The president pledged not to relent in his effort to eradicate terrorism.

``They try to hide, but we're going to shine the light of justice on them,'' Bush said Wednesday.

Bush was re-emphasizing that his campaign has multiple fronts, releasing what the administration described as substantial progress in blocking funds of terrorists and their associates.

``We're halting their money,'' Bush said. ``We've got allies around the world helping us close the net.''

Last month, Bush moved to freeze assets of alleged terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden, an exiled Saudi multimillionaire, and 26 other people and organizations with suspected links to terrorism. The administration said recently that $6 million has been blocked and 50 bank accounts frozen, 30 in this country and 20 overseas.

Bush also was meeting with his Cabinet for an update on the broad range of government activities related to the terrorist strike.

Near the top of the agenda was how to revive the suffering American economy.

Under one plan floated by the White House, taxpayers who did not qualify for rebates earlier in the year would receive checks for $300 or $600, according to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity. Many of those would be low-income earners. Those who already received a rebate could benefit from accelerated rate cuts, though it was unclear whether they would see a check reflecting that, one official said.

Bush's trip to the Pentagon was his first since the U.S.-led bombing campaign on Afghanistan began Sunday. He toured the Pentagon damage the day after hijackers slammed the jet into the building and two more in New York City's World Trade Center.

Though one side of the Pentagon was badly damaged, and military personnel deeply shaken, the building has taken center stage since the strikes began Sunday.

A fourth day of aerial raids Wednesday, including attacks on the outskirts of Kabul, the Afghan capital, moved the U.S.-led campaign closer to the expected start of ground operations against the bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorist network and the Taliban government.