WASHINGTON – In a prime-time address to the nation on the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, President Bush said a long year has passed for Americans but the country remains buoyant and triumphant in the face of horror, tragedy and animosity.
"For those who lost loved ones, it has been a year of sorrow, of empty places, of newborn children who will never know their fathers here on Earth. For members of our military, it has been a year of sacrifice, and service far from home. For all Americans, it has been a year of adjustment -- of coming to terms with the difficult knowledge that the United States has determined enemies and is not invulnerable to attack," Bush said.
The president spoke in front of Ellis Island, home of the Statue of Liberty, a symbolic nod to the millions of immigrants who passed through New York on their way to a new life -- and new freedoms -- in America.
"We resolved a year ago to honor every person lost. We owe them remembrance, and we owe them more. We owe them, and their children, and our own, the most enduring monument we can build: A world of liberty and security made possible by the way America leads, and by the way Americans lead our lives," he added.
Bush also reminded Americans that the war on terror is ongoing, and needs the continued strength and commitment of the people to achieve success.
"The attack on our nation was also an attack on the ideals that make us a nation. Our deepest national conviction is that every life is precious, because every life is the gift of a Creator who intended us to live in liberty and equality. More than anything else, this separates us from the enemy we fight," he said.
As he did all day on this solemn day, the president alternated between sorrow and defiance.
Bush spent the one-year anniversary of the attacks flying from one somber memorial to another, beginning with prayer services in Washington, and then continuing on to ceremonies at the Pentagon, where 184 perished when a plane commandeered by hijackers flew into the western side of the building on Sept. 11.
He and first lady Laura Bush then joined the families of downed American Airlines Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pa., where another hijacked plane believed to be headed to Washington, D.C., crashed instead in a meadow on that tragic day. Passengers on that flight were thought to have forcibly overtaken the control of the jet from the hijackers before it could reach Washington.
Shortly afterward, the first couple engaged in a wreath-laying ceremony at Ground Zero in lower Manhattan, where 2,801 people perished in the ruins of the World Trade Center towers. He lingered long with family members, hugging and kissing children, and shaking the hands of those around him.
In deference to the solemnity of the occasion, Bush made several references to God in his evening address. But referring to the job at hand, Bush said that the sacred promise to America and the world will not allow "any terrorist or tyrant to threaten civilization."
"We have no intention of ignoring or appeasing history's latest gang of fanatics trying to murder their way to power. They are discovering, as others before them, the resolve of a great democracy," Bush said.
"In the ruins of two towers, under a flag unfurled at the Pentagon, at the funerals of the lost, we have made a sacred promise, to ourselves and to the world: We will not relent until justice is done and our nation is secure. What our enemies have begun, we will finish," he said.
The White House said the president has chosen to talk only briefly about the year following the deadly attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, ending in the loss of nearly 3,000 lives, and of the challenge for the nation ahead. Officials said the nation is too emotionally exhausted from the day's commemorative activities to take much more than his 10-minute speech.
On Thursday, Bush will continue on the hard-line path, speaking to the United Nations General Assembly about the need to overthrow Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, the tyrant to whom he obviously namelessly referred in his speech. There, he is expected to lay out a list of violations by Saddam of U.N. resolutions and press for world support, though he has not ruled out going it alone in a military offensive against the dictator.
In the meantime, the president said that Americans should rest comfortably and that the United States government and military is on the job preventing another attack.
"Tomorrow is Sept. 12th. A milestone is passed, and a mission goes on. Be confident. Our country is strong. And our cause is even larger than our country. Ours is the cause of human dignity: freedom guided by conscience, and guarded by peace. This ideal of America is the hope of all mankind. That hope drew millions to this harbor. That hope still lights our way."