WASHINGTON—Across the land, Monday brought back memories of that awful morning five years ago: the crisp blue sky above Manhattan, the silver planes streaking into tall buildings, the flames, smoke, dust, horrified faces, people running, firefighters and police officers struggling, the fear, grief and death.
That day marked the end of America's innocence; the grim realization that our nation no longer is protected by its broad ocean ramparts, that enemies can strike our homeland at any time. Americans everywhere recalled on Monday where they were when the planes struck and the towers fell on Sept. 11, 2001. Bells tolled, bagpipes wailed, flags flew at half-staff.
After an emotional tour of the tragic crash sites in New York, Shanksville, Pa., and the Pentagon, President Bush used a prime-time speech to defend the war in Iraq. He previously has acknowledged that Iraq's Saddam Hussein was not involved in the Sept. 11 attacks, but he linked Iraq to a broader struggle against global terrorism that he called "the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century."
Bush's remarks echoed a series of recent speeches by Republicans casting November's congressional elections as a referendum on national security.
"I'm often asked why we are in Iraq when Saddam Hussein was not responsible for the 9-11 attacks," Bush said. "The answer is that the regime of Saddam Hussein was a clear threat ... and after 9-11, Saddam's regime posed a risk that the world could not afford to take."
The president, who mentioned Iraq 16 times in his 16-minute speech, urged Americans to put aside their differences "and work together to meet the test that history has given us."
Earlier, at a memorial service in New York, relatives of the 2,749 people lost there stood in the void that was created when the World Trade Center towers collapsed and paid tribute to the victims. They clutched pictures of their loved ones, sobbing quietly as their names were read in a four-hour ceremony.
Blocks away, on a spectacular late-summer morning remarkably like the one that ended in tragedy five years before, the president and first lady Laura Bush joined a group of firefighters for moments of silence at 8:46 a.m. and 9:03 a.m., the times when the first aircraft, then a second one, slammed into the twin towers.
A few hours later, the Bushes stood in a rainy field in Shanksville, where a third hijacked plane crashed as passengers fought back against the terrorists. Again, the weather mimicked conditions five years ago. Relatives of the victims from United Airlines Flight 93 wept as the president sought to console them.
"Their actions have ennobled our lives. Their death has enriched our lives. Their courage has demonstrated that which we are all capable of," the Rev. Paul Britton, a Lutheran minister, told the crowd. His sister Marion died on the flight.
At the Pentagon, Bush's final stop, the president wiped away tears after placing a wreath in honor of the 184 passengers, crew members and people in the building who died when American Airlines Flight 77 smashed into its west side.
Lt. Col. John Jessup, whose office was destroyed in the attack, skipped the ceremonies, choosing to mark the day with quiet reflection. Jessup said he lost 23 co-workers and friends five years ago. He helped colleagues escape his office until the billowing black smoke stopped him.
He still has survivor's guilt, but said he knows that God "isn't done with me yet." He said he was back at work the day after the attacks.
"Because I'm a soldier," he said.
America's memories of that fateful day were mixed Monday with reminders that life changed then.
Jittery officials diverted a United Airlines plane bound for San Francisco to Dallas when an unclaimed BlackBerry was found aboard. New York's Penn Station was evacuated briefly because of a suspicious package.
Osama bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, warned in a new video that Persian Gulf countries and Israel would be al-Qaida's next targets.
In Afghanistan, a planned moment of silence by American troops was disrupted by a rocket attack from resurgent Taliban fighters that sent the soldiers scrambling for cover.
And fighting continued in Iraq.
"This struggle has been called a clash of civilizations," Bush said. "In truth, it is a struggle for civilization."
Five years on, the aftereffects of Sept. 11 remain inescapable. Public buildings resemble fortresses. Air marshals ride planes. Police patrol subways. Billions of dollars are being spent on security, yet nearly half of Americans fear another terrorist attack, pollsters report. People say they're more cautious, suspicious of others, wary of public transportation.
Yet life went on Monday. Astronauts worked to finish the International Space Station orbiting 270 miles above Earth. Meteorologists monitored Hurricane Florence in the Atlantic. "Monday Night Football" competed with the president for TV viewers' attention.
Even Congress put politics aside, briefly, holding a memorial ceremony on the Capitol grounds at dusk. The Marine Corps Band played and top Republicans and Democrats spoke. But no one expected the bipartisan spirit to last. On Tuesday lawmakers will return to battle over how to balance the rule of law with the war on terrorism, defining the rights of detainees facing trial in special military courts.
In his speech, Bush said the attacks brought out the best in Americans by exposing them to the worst.
"On 9-11, our nation saw the face of evil," he said. "Yet on that awful day, we also witnessed something distinctly American: ordinary citizens rising to the occasion, and responding with extraordinary acts of courage."
He warned Americans to brace for a long struggle.
"America did not ask for this war, and every American wishes it were over. So do I," he said. "But the war is not over—and it will not be over until either we or the extremists emerge victorious. If we do not defeat these enemies now, we will leave our children to face a Middle East overrun by terrorist states and radical dictators armed with nuclear weapons."
His warning seemed to be a veiled reference to Iran, which he has accused of seeking nuclear weapons.
Hours before, the co-chairmen of the independent 9-11 commission had voiced anguish at America's halting efforts to improve homeland security. They spoke at the National Press Club, where they rued Washington's failure to embrace many of the 41 recommendations that their panel had offered toward making America safer.
In Baghdad, the mood was somber as a digital clock counted down to 4:46 p.m., the local time of the first Sept. 11 attack. Military personnel and civilians hung their heads for a moment of silence.
U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said the war in Iraq was the center of an effort to promote democracy and security in the Middle East.
(Boyd wrote from Washington, Hutcheson from New York and Washington. Mark Brunswick of the Minneapolis Star Tribune in Baghdad and Margaret Talev and Brady Averill in Washington contributed to this report.)
(c) 2006, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
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