President Bush got a first hand look Wednesday at the destruction caused by the terrorist attacks on Washington. He went to the Pentagon to view the damage and meet relief workers. The visit came shortly after administration officials disclosed the hijacked plane that hit the Defense Department was initially intended to crash at the White House.
The President began his day with a warning to those responsible for the worst terrorist attack on American soil. He ended it with a visit to the Pentagon.
Mr. Bush stood at the crash site on one side of the world's largest office building, near blackened walls, and heaps of debris. "Coming here makes me sad on the one hand....and also makes me angry," he said.
A few hours earlier administration officials told reporters the hijacked plane that crashed into the Pentagon bypassed its original target. "We have real and credible information that the airplane that landed at the Pentagon was originally intended to hit the White House," said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer. He said the presidential jet, Air Force One, was also targeted by terrorists. But he refused to elaborate on the exact nature of the risk posed to Mr. Bush's plane.
The president was in Florida when the morning attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon occurred. Instead of returning immediately to Washington, Air Force One shuttled secretly to air force bases in Louisiana and Nebraska.
Mr. Fleischer says the plane's course was repeatedly changed because of the terrorist threat. He says the administration decided to make this information public to underscore a message delivered by the President earlier in the day.
Mr. Bush declared the terrorist attacks amounted to acts of war, and stressed the United States is facing a different kind of enemy. "This is an enemy who preys on innocent and unsuspecting people, then runs for cover," he said. "But it won't be able to run for cover forever."
He said it was not just the United States that was attacked on Tuesday, but all freedom-loving people. "We will rally the world. We will be patient, we will be focused, and we will be steadfast in our determination," he said.
Mr. Bush also announced he would ask Congress for emergency funds to help recovery efforts and to pursue the fight against terrorism.
The top Democrat in the Senate expressed his support. Majority Leader Tom Daschle spoke with reporters, after a unity meeting at the White House with lawmakers from both political parties. "We will work with the administration to allocate the resources and to dedicate whatever strategy may be required to fulfill our obligations. It is our strong desire to do this not as Republicans or Democrats but as Americans," he said.
The White House says it is too early to estimate the amount of emergency funds needed. Members of New York's congressional delegation say the President has assured them he will do all he can to respond to the tragedy.