President Bush leads the nation Thursday in solemn ceremonies marking the second anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.
It will be a day for remembering the victims and the horrific events of a September morning that dawned clear and bright.
Four hijacked planes were turned into missiles on that day, slamming into the two tallest buildings in New York City, the Pentagon, and a Pennsylvania field.
About 3,000 people died. And etched forever in the nation's conscience is the sight of crumbling buildings and twisted metal, the sound of screaming men, women and children, and the stench of smoldering ash and death. "The memories of September 11 will never leave us. We will not forget the burning towers and the last phone calls and the smoke over Arlington," said Mr. Bush.
On the eve of the second anniversary of the attacks, President Bush talked about the meaning of that day that changed America. He spoke of families left behind, valiant rescue teams, and terrorists with no regard for innocent life, "and we will never forget the servants of evil who plotted the attack," he said, "and we will never forget those who rejoiced at our grief and our mourning."
The president spoke Wednesday at an FBI facility in Quantico, Virginia, a short helicopter ride from the White House. He hosted a screening of a documentary on the downed World Trade Center towers after his return. He plans to stay in Washington throughout Thursday's commemorative events, preferring instead for the focus to be on the victims and their families.
Mr. Bush will attend a prayer service and lead a moment of silence at the White House at 8:46 a.m. (Eastern), the exact time when the first hijacked plane hit the World Trade Center north tower. In the afternoon, he will travel to a military hospital in Washington for private visits with soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld will preside over a wreath laying and other commemorative events at Arlington National Cemetery and the Pentagon. Vice President Dick Cheney will represent the White House in New York, but will not attend a ceremony at the site of the downed twin towers at the request of city officials, who said the extra security would inconvenience the victim's families.