As number missing in Trade Center attack rises above 6,000, Bush vows to rebuild New York

Friday, September 21st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ As the number of people missing in the destruction of the World Trade Center rose to 6,333, President Bush vowed to rebuild New York City as a symbol of America's resolve.

Hundreds of rescue workers in yellow slickers continued digging through the mangled wreckage of the towers in the rain as Bush praised their endurance Thursday night in a televised speech before Congress.

The president held up a police badge belonging to George Howard, a 45-year-old Port Authority officer who had been rushing toward the Trade Center to help when he was hit by debris and killed. Bush said he would carry the badge, given to him by Howard's mother, as a reminder of what needs to be done.

``It is my reminder of lives that ended and a task that does not end,'' Bush said. ``I will not forget the wound to our country and those who inflicted it. I will not yield.''

The site where the twin towers stood, now filled with rubble and rescue teams, has increasingly become a touchstone where politicians from across the United States and abroad are being brought to strengthen their resolve in the fight against terrorism.

Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert planned to visit the site Friday, as did Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller. On Thursday, British Prime Minister Tony Blair attended a church service in Manhattan, and 40 U.S. senators got a firsthand look at the devastation at ground zero.

``I've never seen anything comparable to what we've seen here today, the magnitude of it,'' said Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss. ``It's so important that we come and see what we're dealing with.''

The Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center spread far beyond America's borders, with at least 63 countries counting their citizens among the missing.

Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said the British consulate had 250 citizens missing. According to the consulates, Germany has 120 to 150 missing and four confirmed dead; India has 91 missing; Canada has 35 to 50 missing; Japan is missing 24; Australia counts 20 missing and three dead; Colombia has 20 missing and one dead; and the Philippines has 19 missing.

The reports of foreigners who never returned home increased the count of the missing in the attack from 5,422 to 6,333 on Thursday.

Of the more than 6,000 people treated for injuries on the day of the attack, more than 60 remained in hospitals in New York and New Jersey. Of the 241 bodies recovered, the coroner's office has identified 170.

At the site of the devastation, dump trucks carried out loads of debris, and smoke still emerged from the rubble. The rain made the steel slick and turned the ash that covers everything to mud.

``It's hard to get footing on the steel, but it's a 24-7 operation,'' said Bobby Blake, an iron worker assisting with the effort. ``There's at least a foot of mud.''

Their efforts were halted for about 20 minutes Friday morning by a lightning storm that sent workers scurrying under tents and tarpaulins.

``We tried to stay away from the metal,'' said Verizon employee Dennis Lucas, who was laying cables.

In his speech Thursday night, Bush praised Giuliani and New York Gov. George Pataki and looked to the future.

``As a symbol of America's resolve, my administration will work with Congress and these two leaders to show the world that we will rebuild New York City,'' he said.

Ron Cox, a volunteer firefighter from Dawsonville, Ga., watched the president's address during a break from his work directing traffic and moving buckets of debris.

``Bush was right on point. You've got to really be behind the president,'' Cox said.

Larry Silverstein, leader of a consortium that took over a 99-year, $3.2 billion lease on the Trade Center in July, said Thursday he intends to rebuild _ but not ``a carbon copy of what was.'' Instead, he may construct four 50-story buildings.

A week and a half after the attack, much of New York was returning to routine. School attendance was up to 85 percent, compared to about 90 percent normally, and Giuliani said the number of businesses open and traffic on the roads had increased.

Residents also began returning to some apartments near the Trade Center, though about 5,500 apartments remained off limits.

``We are the lucky ones,'' said Rick Cunningham, who expects to live with his wife and child in temporary housing for a while. ``We are displaced and everything, but to be alive is very special.''