By Andrea Morale
Wednesday, Sept. 12 - A deep sense of shock and sadness pervaded the communities of Nassau County today, in the wake of yesterday's terrorist strikes on America, which are being described by President Bush as "the most devastating terrorist attacks in the nation's history," and "an act of war."
The Manhattan skyline has been changed forever by the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. - Photo by Rob Rich
Many residents of this New York City suburb are now fearing for the lives of friends and family members believed to be inside the World Trade Center when the Twin Towers were destroyed by two hijacked commercial passenger jets that crashed into the buildings yesterday morning. An estimated 50,000 people worked in New York City's Twin Towers, certainly many of them from Nassau County, and residents are only beginning to comprehend the magnitude of the casualties.
In addition to the employees at the World Trade Center, and the passengers in the hijacked jets, many of the estimated 400 New York City firefighters and police officers believed to be killed when the Twin Towers collapsed are from Long Island. As of 10:45 a.m. today, only a few survivors and 80 bodies had been recovered, while thousands were believed to be amid the rubble. Victims' families and friends, in a desperate attempt to locate their loved ones, have also flocked to the wreckage.
The destruction of the World Trade Center was among a coordinated series of attacks on America's greatest symbols beginning at approximately 8:45 a.m. yesterday; the Pentagon - America's center of military operations - in Washington D.C. was also hit by a commercial airliner yesterday morning, and at least 800 people were killed there. Close to 300 passengers and crew members were killed in four commercial passenger jet crashes involved in a carefully calculated, multiple airline hijacking used to carry out the unthinkable attacks. A total of about 20 hijackers, armed with knives, reportedly disabled airline crew members and operated the jets as missiles in their suicidal missions. In addition to the crashes at the World Trade Center and Pentagon, a fourth jet, apparently diverted by heroic passengers from an attempted attack on the White House, crashed in a remote area of Somerset, PA. Indeed, yesterday was a dark day in U.S. history - in the history of the world - and the attack was an affront to the freedom that is the heart of America.
President Bush, in an address at 11 a.m. this morning, called the attacks acts of war, and said that the enemy will be conquered. There have been over 700 tips to the FBI as investigators search for the perpetrators. "The deliberate and deadly attacks that were carried out against our country yesterday, were more than acts of terror. They were acts of war," the president said. "This is an enemy that tries to hide, but it won't be able to hide forever. This is an enemy that thinks its harbors are safe, but its harbors won't be safe forever."
The commander in chief said the government is open for business, but not business as usual, as the US military is on full guard. Based on US intelligence information, he said he believes the perpetrators are finished with a carefully executed attack, although he added, "We are operating on heightened security alert.
"We will not allow this enemy to win the war by changing our way of life or restricting our freedoms," he assured. He vowed to rally the world against the shadowy enemy behind the attacks, and anyone who harbors that enemy.
Bush said he has requested emergency funding from Congress to help recover victims, help the citizens of New York City and Washington D.C. respond to the tragedy, and to protect national security. "We are prepared to spend whatever it takes," he said.
He added, "America is united. The freedom-loving nations of the world stand by our side. This will be a monumental struggle of good versus evil, but good will prevail."
Some believe Osama Bin Laden, the militant fundamentalist financier harbored by the ruling Taliban government in Afghanistan, was behind the attacks, and following the attack, Senator Orrin Hatch said US Intelligence had intercepted communication from a suspected terrorist tied to Bin Laden reporting that the attack had been executed. However, federal officials have indicated that the perpetrators are unknown, and that we are at war with an unknown enemy. This morning, there were reports of arrests of suspects tied to the attack, in New Jersey and South Florida. The Federal Bureau of Intelligence (FBI) also raided a hotel near the Boston airport from which two of the hijacked planes departed.
Emergency personnel from Nassau County have rushed to New York City to assist search and rescue operations at the World Trade Center, and those concerned for loved ones are also on the scene - seeking information and overwrought with worry and grief. The entire metropolitan area seems to have pulled together in the midst of this tragedy, and New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Governor George Pataki and federal officials have expressed resolve in overcoming the attack.
"We're not going to let these cowards scare us," said Mayor Giuliani. "We're going to rebuild. We're not only going to rebuild. We're going to come out of this stronger than we were before."
Governor Pataki said this morning, "We will get through this. America will get through this. We will not be intimidated. We will not lose our freedom."
Pataki also announced this morning that additional National Guard and State Police will be sent to New York City by tonight to assist in the response effort. "All state personnel and resources at our disposal are committed to helping New Yorkers in response to this unspeakable and horrific tragedy," he said. "Thousands of state and Guard personnel and state troopers have been dispatched to New York City. More are on the way. We will continue to work with the White House, the mayor's office, and the appropriate state, local and federal emergency authorities to ensure the most coordinated and effective emergency response possible." US Navy ships are also on guard in New York City's harbors.
Approximately 360 injured victims of the World Trade Center attack were taken to St. Vincent's Hospital in lower Manhattan yesterday. As of noon today, the survivors pulled from the wreckage included five firefighters. Many people trapped in the wreckage have also been contacting family and emergency personnel via cell phones.
US Secretary of State Colin Powell is also saying this is a time of war for our country, and called the attacks an act of war against civilization. According to CBS News polls, 60 percent of Americans expect that, like Pearl Harbor, yesterday's incident will pull this country into war.
In a prepared statement released on Tuesday, Nassau County Executive Thomas Gulotta expressed sympathy to the victims' families. He said, "I have offered the assistance of Nassau County resources to the mayor and the authorities of New York City. In Nassau County, our Emergency Management Office is at Level 3, the highest level of county preparedness." He added, "With regard to police services, we have doubled our police patrols, and have provided special surveillance for those buildings and facilities which we have determined are particularly sensitive during these circumstances."
A joint statement was released by Assemblyman Thomas DiNapoli and Glen Cove Mayor Thomas Suozzi, the Democratic candidates for county executive in the primary election canceled yesterday. "Our prayers go out for the safety of those in the downtown Manhattan area and in Washington, D.C.," they stated.