Bush leads shaken city in prayer

The mood in the nation's capital Friday was a mix of grief, anger, determination and edginess as the city tried to come to grips with the new realities following Tuesday's devastating attacks on the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon.

During a somber prayer service at Washington's National Cathedral, President Bush recalled the victims who made cell phone calls to say a last "I love you," the heroes who defied hijackers and the firefighters who rushed into danger.

"To the children and parents and spouses and families and friends of the lost, we offer the deepest sympathy of the nation," Bush said on the day he had declared a National Day of Prayer and Remembrance. "And I assure you, you are not alone."

But he also spoke of retribution.

"Our responsibility to history is already clear: to answer these attacks and rid the world of evil," Bush said. "This nation is peaceful, but fierce when stirred to anger. This conflict was begun on the timing and terms of others; it will end in a way and at an hour of our choosing."

The service, conducted amid heavy security, required a ticket of admittance. In the congregation were many Washington dignitaries, as well as relatives of some of the victims.

Bush was flanked by three former presidents, including his father, as well as former Vice President Al Gore, his Democratic opponent in the 2000 election, and the U.S. military commanders who will wage the upcoming war on terrorism.

Spectrum of faiths

Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Muslim clerics offered prayers. Dr. Muzammi Siddiqi, imam of the Islamic Society of North America, quoted the Koran.

"Those that lay the plots of evil, for them is a terrible penalty; and the plotting of such will not abide," he said.

Rev. Billy Graham said, "No matter how hard we try, words simply cannot express the horror, the shock and the revulsion we all feel over what took place in this nation Tuesday morning."

The president was accompanied by First Lady Laura Bush, who sat next to former President George Bush and former First Lady Barbara Bush. Next to them were former President Bill Clinton, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and their daughter, Chelsea. Former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford also attended, accompanied by former First Ladies Rosalynn Carter and Betty Ford.

The service's solemn mood was enhanced by the melancholy tolling of the cathedral's large bell as the president's motorcade departed.

Outside, Washington-area residents who did not attend the service expressed their resolve to punish those responsible for terrorism.

"I said to a co-worker of mine immediately when I heard the news about the trade center, this is something you go to war for," said Christopher Santos, 26, a computer scientist who was wearing a tie with an American flag motif and who strongly supports Bush's actions since Tuesday. "You don't do this to America."

Tattered nerves

A number of bomb threats in the days since the attacks have helped jangle the city's nerves. The Capitol and city streets have been evacuated on several occasions.

Outside Episcopal Church of the Epiphany, Rev. Ronald Conner talked about how "Washington is definitely on the edge" since the attacks.

The capital's "bubble of security" has been shattered, he said, for only the third time in history: the British burned the Capitol and White House during the War of 1812 and Confederate Gen. Jubal Early attacked Ft. Stevens in the District of Columbia in 1864.

The days following Tuesday's attacks found officials heightening security, including an expansion of the vehicle- and pedestrian-free zone around the White House, which has caused automotive gridlock in downtown Washington. Officials said that measure was temporary.

Reagan National, the airport closest to the district, also has been closed indefinitely because of fears that a departing plane could be crashed into the White House or Capitol in only seconds after takeoff.

Security concerns also caused the administration to order that the Potomac River be closed to all boats north of the Wilson Bridge, which lies about 5 miles south of the White House, just below downtown Alexandria, Va.