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US Congress Vows Retribution - 2001-09-12

The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have returned to work after Tuesday's terrorist attacks with words of support for the victims and vows to punish those responsible. While Congress is back in session, the atmosphere on Capitol Hill is far from normal. Incoming cars must pass through a police cordon several blocks away from the Capitol itself. The building is closed to the tourists who usually crowd the hallways and wander the grounds outside.

For members of the New York delegation, the loss is deeply personal. Democratic Senator Charles Schumer recounted a frantic two-hour phone search for his daughter, whose school is near the collapsed World Trade Center. She was unharmed but her father says everyone in the city knows someone who is missing. "I know of a call, someone on the 104th floor," the Senator said, "who worked for the good firm of Cantor and Fitzgerald; we can't find hardly anybody from that firm, who called his parents, told them he loved them, and they haven't heard from him since."

Like the president and his aides, lawmakers are trying to assure Americans the nation will survive the deadly strikes. Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican, is among many who spoke of resolve. "The response of our president, the U.S. government and our American society, is a testament to this republic and to our free and democratic system of government. It demonstrates that democracy will always triumph over terrorism," Representive Ros-Lehtinen said.

Congress' first order of business is a resolution condemning the attacks and promising new resources for the war on terrorism. But lawmakers say the United States must respond with more than words.

New York Senator Hillary Clinton delivered a sharply worded warning to the terrorists and their allies. "That not only those who harbor terrorists but those who in any way, any aid or comfort whatsoever, will now face the wrath of our country," Senator Clinton said. "And I hope that message has gotten through to everywhere it needs to be heard that you are either with America in our time of need or you are not."

Key administration officials have begun a series of closed-door briefings for senators and House members. A few have lashed out at what they call failures of intelligence and security. But, for now, most are trying to show unity and wait for the many investigations to play out.