President Bush spent Sunday with two of the worst tragedies in U.S. history in mind, marking the fourth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks before making his longest scheduled trip to the hurricane ravaged Gulf Coast.
As he has every year since the 9/11 attacks, Bush observed a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m. EST, the exact minute when hijackers smashed the first passenger jet into the World Trade Center four years ago that day. The president on Friday had proclaimed Sept. 9-11 as National Days of Prayer and Remembrance.
"I ask that the people of the United States and places of worship mark these National Days of Prayer and Remembrance with memorial services and other appropriate ceremonies," he said Friday.
In his weekly radio address to the nation on Saturday, Bush compared the nation¡¦s loss on 9/11 to the devastation left behind in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
"Every American has memories of that day that will never leave them," the President said. "We remember the images of fire and terror at the Pentagon, in Pennsylvania, and in the heart of New York City."
"We remember the ruthlessness of those who murdered the innocent and took joy in their suffering. We remember the courage of the police and firefighters and rescue personnel who rushed into burning buildings to save lives, knowing they might never emerge. And we remember the victims - moms and dads, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives - and the loved ones they left behind."
As New Yorkers marked the fourth anniversary of the attacks yesterday with a commemoration ceremony at the site of the fallen World Trade Center towers, siblings of the victims read the names of the more than 2,700 people who died when the towers collapsed.
Also recognized were the 346 rescue workers ¡V firefighters, port authority staff, New York policemen, and medical personnel ¡V that died while trying to save lives.
"Americans remember the fears and uncertainty and confusion of that terrible morning," Bush said in his address. "But above all, we remember the resolve of our nation to defend our freedom, rebuild a wounded city, and care for our neighbors in need."
"Today, America is confronting another disaster that has caused destruction and loss of life," the President continued.
Though the devastation that hit the United States this time was a natural disaster, Bush did not waver in his belief that once again, the nation will prove its resilient and compassionate character.
"Once more our hearts ache for our fellow citizens, and many are left with questions about the future. Yet we are again being reminded that adversity brings out the best in the American spirit," he said. "In this time of great suffering, we have seen the courage and determination of rescue personnel who willingly risk their lives to save the lives of others. We have seen the spirit of America's armies of compassion who have rallied in response to this tragedy."
President Bush expressed appreciation to faith-based and community groups, who are oftentimes on the frontlines in giving care.
Of the three largest disaster relief operations in the country, two - The Salvation Army and Southern Baptist Disaster Relief - are faith-based agencies.
"Faith-based organizations and community groups and individual citizens across the country are caring for those affected by the storm, and comforting those whose loved ones are lost or missing," said Bush.
Though the times are trying, he expressed hope in the situation and asked for God's protection.
"Even in the deepest darkness, we can see the light of hope," he said, "and the light shows us the way forward."
"We will honor the memory of those we have lost; we will comfort the victims of Katrina; and we will make the Gulf Coast more vibrant than ever.
"In all that lies before us, may God watch over the United States of America."