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United States attacked from air; Bush: ‘Freedom will be defended’

WASHINGTON (BP)–An unprecedented attack, apparently by terrorists, struck the United States from the air Sept. 11, leaving untold numbers of people dead and injured and prompting President Bush to promise America’s freedom would be defended.

The attacks came in the form of crashes by United States commercial airliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in New York City and Washington, respectively, in the morning. The World Trade Center and the Pentagon were evacuated, but both trade-center towers, which were more than 100 stories tall, collapsed, possibly with many people inside.

In the wake of the attacks, other possible targets, including the White House and the U.S. Capitol, were evacuated. The Federal Aviation Administration also shut down all commercial flights in the country.

“Freedom itself was attacked this morning by a faceless coward, and freedom will be defended,” the president said from Barksdale Air Force Base near Shreveport, La. Air Force One, the president’s airplane, had flown to that site from Florida as a security measure, according to news reports.

Bush invited Americans to join him “in saying a prayer for the victims and their families. The resolve of our great nation is being tested. But make no mistake, we will show the world that we will pass this test.

“Make no mistake, the United States will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly acts.

“Our military at home and around the world is on high-alert status, and we have taken the necessary security precautions to continue the functions of your government,” Bush said. He said he had assured congressional and world leaders the government “will do what is necessary to protect America and Americans.”

Sen. Chuck Hagel, R.-Neb., said, “This is the second Pearl Harbor. I don’t think that I overstate it,” according to Associated Press. Japan’s unexpected attack on the American fleet in 1941 sent the United States into World War II.

Southern Baptist leaders called members of the convention’s churches, as well as other Christians, to pray.

“We need to pray for all of those who have lost loved ones and who are in the midst of anguish and suffering,” said Richard Land, president of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “We also need to understand that one of the prices we pay for being a free and open society is that we are vulnerable to these kinds of attacks. We must be eternally vigilant to minimize these horrible occurrences and to bring the perpetrators to justice. It is our fervent prayer that our nation will do nothing but seek the justice that the law and God require.

“This terrible tragedy that evidences a callous disregard for human life will prompt many Americans to think about eternal things in a way that they don’t on a daily basis,” Land said. “I hope that all Christians will join me in praying that the Holy Spirit will use this, and use us, to reach out to Americans who are concerned about their spiritual futures in a new and more sensitive way that they may come to know the peace and assurance that can only be found in Jesus Christ. Even in the midst of this tragedy, we need to pray that God will give us the faith to obey His commandment to love our enemies and that we would not harbor a spirit of vengeance against the perpetrators of these atrocities.”

Land also encouraged Christians to pray for the salvation of those behind the attacks.

By early afternoon, no group had taken credit for the attacks.

The attacks apparently involved two American Airlines planes and a United Airlines jet.

American flight No. 11 en route from Boston to Los Angeles was one of the planes that crashed, according to the airline. It had 92 people on board, counting passengers and crew. American flight No. 77 from Dulles Airport in suburban Washington to Los Angeles also crashed. It had 64 people on board. United flight No. 175 from Boston to Los Angeles apparently was the other plane involved. It had 65 people on board.

Meanwhile, United flight No. 93 from Newark, N.J., to San Francisco crashed near Pittsburgh, Pa., with 45 people on board, according to reports.

All four planes were either Boeing 757s to 767s, according to reports.

Several offices of the federal government were evacuated, including the Departments of Justice, State and Treasury, as well as the Central Intelligence Agency. The United Nations building in New York City also was evacuated.

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