Bush marks 9/11 anniversary at attack sites in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington

Monday, September 11th 2006, 6:06 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Head bowed, President Bush on Monday honored the memory of the nearly 3,000 people killed five years ago in the Sept. 11 attacks that rocked his presidency and thrust the United States into a costly and unfinished war against terror.

Bush was addressing the nation from the Oval Office after making stops in New York, Shanksville, Pa., and the Pentagon to pay respect to the victims and show resolve in the struggle against Islamic militants.

``We have no intention of ignoring or appeasing history's latest gang of fanatics trying to murder their way to power,'' Vice President Dick Cheney said at a ceremony at the Pentagon, where 184 people in addition to the hijackers were killed when an American Airlines plane slammed into the building.

Five years ago, the attacks transformed Bush's presidency and awakened the world to Osama bin Laden, who is still at large, and his band of al-Qaida terrorists. While the public has soured on the war in Iraq, which Bush calls the central front in the war on terror, the president still gets high marks for his handling of Sept. 11.

Terrorism has been a potent political issue for Republicans, and they hope to capitalize on it in the November elections. GOP lawmakers are anxious about holding control of both houses of Congress.

Aides said Bush, in his speech, would urge the nation to remain committed to the war on terror and would assert that the United States cannot be complacent and wait for terrorists to strike again. Congress has approved $432 billion for Iraq and the war on terrorism. At least 2,666 U.S. servicemen and women have died in Iraq. The toll in Afghanistan is 272.

The attacks changed the political tone in Washington and abroad _ but only briefly.

``We had an astonishing moment of unity in America and around the world,'' former President Clinton told a Jewish conference in Washington. That has given way to bitter political divisions between Democrats and Republicans. Many nations that rushed to stand with the United States now accuse the Bush administration of failing to honor human rights, tolerance and diversity of cultures.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said Monday, ``Five years later, we have to continue to move forward with unity, urgency and in the spirit of international cooperation, because we are not yet fully healed and not yet as safe as we should be.''

Bush began the day in New York with firefighters and police officers at a Lower East Side firehouse. He stood in front of a door salvaged from a fire truck destroyed on Sept. 11. It was a cloudless morning reminiscent of the sunny day when two hijacked planes slammed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center.

The group silently bowed their heads, at 8:46 a.m. and again at 9:03 a.m., marking the moments when the planes slammed into the towers. The attacks killed 2,749 people.

Bush spent time talking with the first responders about what they had been through the last five years, spokesman Tony Snow said.

The next stop was in Shanksville, Pa., where Bush and his wife stood without umbrellas in a chilly rain to lay a wreath honoring the 40 passengers and crew killed when United Airlines Flight 93 plowed into a Pennsylvania field. The terrorists apparently had been planning on crashing the plane into the White House or the Capitol until passengers stormed the cockpit to take control.

``We stand here today with pride because of heroism,'' said Hamilton Peterson, whose father and stepmother died when the plane went down.

The Rev. Paul H. Britton, whose brother, Marion Britton, died on Flight 93, offered a prayer for all as well as for Bush, whom he called ``our conscience and our heart.''

``We gather here connected by sorrow,'' Britton said.

Bush had an emotional meeting with relatives of the Shanksville victims. ``There were some people who were still clearly grieving about what happened five years ago,'' Snow said. ``And he just chatted with them, took his time, listened to what people had to say, had condolences.''

Bush delivered the first Oval Office address of his presidency on the night of the Sept. 11 attacks, after he bounced between Florida and air bases in Louisiana and Nebraska for security reasons. ``Today, our nation saw evil,'' the president declared then. Enunciating a ``with us or against us'' doctrine, Bush vowed to find and punish those responsible and any country that harbored them.