WASHINGTON – President Bush, vowing to “rid the world of evil,” called 50,000 military reservists to duty, won power from Congress to wage war on terrorists and waded into the ruins of Tuesday’s attacks in a flag-waving, bullhorn-wielding show of resolve.
“I can hear you,” Bush told hundreds of weary rescue workers Friday at the World Trade Center in New York. “The rest of the world hears you, and the people who knocked these building down will hear all of us soon.”
Cheers of “USA! USA!” rang out across the scarred landscape – a brief moment of exuberance at ground zero of the worst act of terrorism on American soil.
Flanked by U.S. warplanes, the presidential jet negotiated the troubled skies for the first time since last Tuesday, the day that hijackers steered four jetliners to a gruesome demise.
“Today we mourn,” read a sign along one of Bush’s motorcade routes. “Tomorrow we avenge.”
Congress cleared the way for action, approving $40 billion to help the victims, to increase security and to hunt down terrorists who masterminded the attacks. The Senate authorized Bush to use “necessary and appropriate force” to retaliate.
The votes were unanimous.
Aides say Bush will follow up today with a subtle shift in his rhetoric as he begins to lay out in frank terms the sacrifices Americans face. Officials note, for example, that fighting terrorists will expose U.S. troops to severe risk and American citizens to retaliatory strikes. Americans need to be prepared for both possibilities before Bush acts, aides said.
At the Trade Center crash site, rescuers clawed through tons of debris in desperate search for survivors, fearing no more would be found, knowing untold thousands were entombed in the rubble. Rain turned dust to muck, slowing the grim chore.
“America today is on bended knee in prayer,” Bush told rescue workers from atop a charred firetruck. He had an American flag in one hand, a bullhorn in the other.
“George, we can’t hear you!” somebody in the crowd shouted.
Bush said he could hear them – and that America’s enemies could hear them, too.
Bush is spending the weekend in Camp David, the secure Marine compound and presidential retreat in Maryland. He planned to meet with his national security team today.
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