Bush: 'Nation is Peaceful But Fierce When Stirred to Anger'

By Melanie Arter | July 7, 2008 | 8:19 PM EDT

2nd Add: includes more detail on the emergency aid approved by Congress.

(CNSNews.com) - During a service attended by former presidents, lawmakers, and other government leaders, President Bush Friday led the nation in prayer and mourning for the victims of Tuesday's terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington.

"War has been waged against us by stealth and deceit and murder. This nation is peaceful, but fierce when stirred to anger," he said. "This conflict was begun on the timing and terms of others. It will end in a way, and at an hour, of our choosing."

Bush added: "Just three days removed from these events, Americans do not yet have the distance of history. But our responsibility to history is already clear: to answer these attacks and rid the world of evil."

To that end, the president has already authorized the Pentagon to call up 50,000 members of the National Guard and Reserve, troops that are expected to assist in any U.S. retaliation against the terrorists.

In reflecting on the victims of Tuesday's tragedy, Bush said America will come to know the names on the list of casualties that "we are only beginning to read. They are the names of men and women who began their day at a desk or in an airport, busy with life. They are the names of people who faced death and in their last moments called home to say, be brave, and I love you."

The president also gave examples of the heroic sacrifices many of the victims made to save others.

"Inside the World Trade Center, one man who could have saved himself stayed until the end at the site of his quadriplegic friend. A beloved priest died giving the last rites to a firefighter. Two office workers, finding a disabled stranger, carried her down 68 floors to safety," Bush said.

"One group of men drove through the night from Dallas to Washington to bring skin grafts for burn victims," he added.

The president said the nation's grief is only temporary: "Grief and tragedy and hatred are only for a time. Goodness, remembrance and love have no end."

After the services, Bush traveled to New York City, meeting with rescue workers and New York politicians at the site of the ruins of the World Trade Center twin towers.

"The nation sends its love and compassion to everybody here," he said. "Thank you for your hard work. Thank you for making the nation proud, and may God bless America."

Throughout his speech, Bush was greeted with shouts from the crowd, screaming "USA! USA! USA!"

He told rescue workers that "America today is on bended knee" for them.

The Senate and House both passed a $40 billion emergency aid bill in quick succession to help in the aftermath of the terror attacks, and it also passes a resolution authorizing President Bush to "use all necessary and appropriate force" to retaliate for the attacks.

At least half the $40 billion will go to disaster recovery activities in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania.

The Senate also gave official consent for the president to use force against those responsible for the attacks. The House is expected to vote late Friday or Saturday on the measure, crafted to support the president while protecting the constitutional role of Congress in overseeing military actions.

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