WASHINGTON — President Bush and congressional leaders were whisked to secure locations as the government evacuated federal buildings across the capital, sent out search-and-rescue teams in New York and called in volunteer doctors and nurses.
Government agencies sent in medical supplies, dogs to sniff for victims and portable morgues.
The government began implementing an emergency response plan, in the works for decades, immediately after two airplane attacks on New York’s World Trade Center. Minutes later, a third plane crashed into the Pentagon.
Bush, who started his day at a Sarasota, Fla., elementary school, was flown to military bases in Louisiana and Nebraska before returning to the White House Tuesday evening.
The Secret Service took immediate steps to ensure that the president, Vice President Dick Cheney and House Speaker Dennis Hastert were safe, said Karen Hughes, a top Bush aide. Agents also took precautions for members of the national security team, the Cabinet and senior White House staff.
Top congressional leaders were sent to a secure government facility 75 miles west of Washington. They returned Tuesday evening. The House and Senate each planned to convene at 10 a.m. today for the sole purpose of passing resolutions condemning the attacks. They will recess until Thursday morning, when normal business resumes.
Across the globe, American forces and embassies went on high alert.
Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta and other senior White House staffers gathered at a White House command center, where they coordinated with other branches of federal government. Secretary of State Colin Powell was returning to Washington from South America.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency activated eight urban search-and-rescue task forces for New York and four for the Pentagon. The 62-member teams provide emergency medical care, help stabilize damaged buildings and include dogs trained to search for victims.
The Health and Human Services Department sent four teams of volunteer doctors, nurses and other medical staff to New York. Three teams of about 35 specially trained, private, volunteer medical professionals were on their way to Washington.
The Federal Aviation Administration grounded all flights until at least noon EDT today, the first time the nation’s entire air traffic system had been shut down. Many international flights in the air were diverted to Canada.
At the Justice Department, officials set up a hot line for families who feared their relatives may have been victims of one of these attacks.
Copyright ©2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.