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Washington, D.C. Reacts

September 12, 2001 at 12:00 AM EST
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KWAME HOLMAN: The day after dawned in Washington with smoke still rising from the Pentagon. Small fires in roof sections continued to burn. Defense Department employees had been told to return to work, but officials briefly reconsidered that and ordered the massive building cleared.

CHIEF ED PLAUGHER: We have had the fuel from the jet catch fire again, and we’re now in there with some additional hand lines and some foam lines, with aircraft fire fighters inside of the insides of the Pentagon trying to suppress it, this time with fire fighting foam.

KWAME HOLMAN: Just after noon, officials rescinded the evacuation order, despite the stubborn flames. Pentagon officials said no one could have survived the catastrophic impact of the jetliner and the fire that followed. FBI agents combed the grounds for evidence. Today’s return to work for official Washington included President Bush, who received his daily national security briefing, then met with the cabinet.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: The deliberate and deadly attacks, which were carried out yesterday against our country, were more than acts of terror; they were acts of war. This will require our country to unite in steadfast determination and resolve. Freedom and democracy are under attack. The American people need to know we’re facing a different enemy than we have ever faced. This enemy hides in shadows and has no regard for human life. This is an enemy who preys on innocent and unsuspecting people, then runs for cover. But it won’t be able to run for cover forever. This is an enemy that tries to hide, but it won’t be able to hide forever. This is an enemy that thinks its harbors are safe, but they won’t be safe forever.

KWAME HOLMAN: Beside the Capitol’s dome, the flag flew at half-staff.

SPOKESMAN: Senate Joint Resolution 22 expressing the sense of the Senate and the House of Representatives regarding the terrorist attacks launched against the United States on September 11, 2001.

KWAME HOLMAN: At 10:00 A.M., the House and Senate convened simultaneously. The only business: A three-page joint resolution condemning yesterday’s attacks and declaring today a national day of unity and mourning.

SEN. TRENT LOTT: Mr. President, it’s so important that we show that even these terrible acts cannot stop America from going forward. We must go on with our important work.

REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT: Today we go back to work in Washington, New York, and all around the country, and we’re determined to show the world that America will not be defeated by anyone. (Applause)

KWAME HOLMAN: A short time later, Congress’ leaders met privately with the President. They emerged promising Mr. Bush will get whatever he needs to respond to yesterday’s events.

REP. DENNIS HASTERT: We are in complete agreement that we will work together, that we want to share information, that we will be ready to move on whatever the President suggests, and we will go through the debate and the actions of Congress in a bipartisan way to make that happen.

SEN. TOM DASCHLE: We will work with the administration to allocate the resources and to dedicate whatever strategy may be required to fulfill our obligations. It is our strong desire to do this not as Republicans or Democrats, but as Americans. And we will continue to demonstrate that desire as we consider whatever other actions may be required in days ahead.

KWAME HOLMAN: Congress could approve billions in emergency funds to aid New York City and install new security measures as early as the end of the week. It was late this afternoon that Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller revealed a wider terrorist threat yesterday, and substantial progress in the investigation.

JOHN ASHCROFT: The four planes were hijacked by between three and six individuals per plane, using knives and box cutters, and in some cases, making bomb threats. Our government has credible evidence that the White House and Air Force One were targets. A number of the suspected hijackers were trained as pilots in the United States.

DIRECTOR JOHN MUELLER: We have, in the last 24 hours, taken the manifests and used those as an evidentiary base, and have talked to many of the families of the victims and have successfully, I believe, identified many of the hijackers on each of the four flights that went down. We also have identified through a number of leads, principally at the cities of origin, a number of individuals whom we believe may have had something to do with the hijackings, and we are pursuing those leads aggressively.

KWAME HOLMAN: At his daily briefing White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer was quizzed why Air Force One flew from Florida to Louisiana and Nebraska yesterday before returning to Andrews Air Force base near Washington.

ARI FLEISCHER: Because the information that we had was real and credible about Air Force One. The manner in which Air Force One operated maintained the security of Air Force One at all times. And that also is one of the reasons why Air Force One did not come back to Andrews, where some people may have thought it would.

KWAME HOLMAN: A short time ago, the President left the White House for the Pentagon to meet with rescue workers.