Tales of prayer, patriotism, and persistence

President Bush stood behind his ornately carved desk in the Oval Office shifting from one foot to the other. He was talking on the phone with New York's governor and mayor, a patch of sun lighting the beige carpet to his side. When he hung up, the somber-faced president took questions from reporters.

Yes, he said, the airlines were safe enough that he would encourage one of his own family members to fly. No, he would not be sharing any intelligence information with the American public. Leaning forward, his fingertips bearing his weight on the desktop, he spoke resolutely about winning "the first war of the 21st century."

Then he got a question that revealed the deep anguish the president is feeling for his country. What, asked Monitor reporter Francine Kiefer, is he thinking in his prayers, and how is he approaching this tragedy in his own heart? Mr. Bush turned away for a moment, his head slightly lowered. When he turned back, his eyes were brimming with tears.

"Well, I don't think of myself right now," he said. "I think about the families, the children." Blinking away tears, he continued: "I'm a loving guy. And I am also someone, however, who's got a job to do, and I intend to do it.... This country will not relent until we have saved ourselves, and others, from the terrible tragedy that came upon America."

To many in the room, it was the moment George W. Bush put on the entire mantle of the presidency, never again to be president-in-training. (Francine Kiefer)

* * *

Ed Jaramillo was on the 90th floor of the World Trade Center's second tower when the plane crashed into Tower One. An announcement over the P.A. system told workers to return to their desks, but he got into an elevator. He was at the 45th floor when his building was hit. It took him 15 minutes to reach the bottom.

"I instantly kissed the ground when I got there," he says. "I kept walking. And then debris started coming down." He took two strangers home with him, who had no place else to go. He has no idea if any of his coworkers survived. (Elizabeth Armstrong)

* * *

Ramon Calalang is walking in the darkness toward the US Capitol, scene of a Wednesday prayer vigil. It seems especially beautiful that night, as birds dart in and out of the bright white light around the dome. He is glad it is still standing.

"I had to come tonight," says Mr. Calalang, whose family came to the United States from the Philippines when he was 6. "This country has been very good to us." He picks up his pace, as he sees the ribbons of candle lights around the reflecting pool.

His family had come for freedom, he says. And freedom was what whoever did this thing had tried to destroy.

"It was an aggression toward our freedom, our peace, and our own humanity," he says. "The first thing I said when I heard about it was, 'How could this happen?' Then, I remembered a passage from the Bible: Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord. It means that no matter what we do, the people responsible for this will find justice." (Gail Russell Chaddock)

* * *

It was uncanny. Robert Anderson, an English teacher at Sewanhaka High School in Floral Park, N.Y., had given this homework assignment to his students Monday night: Write an essay about New York. Early Tuesday morning, one student read his essay aloud to the class. It was "about Christmas in New York as one of the most beautiful times, and being there with his dad and looking up at the twin towers [of the World Trade Center], and how big they were," recounts Mr. Anderson. "I got the news the next period about the plane crashes."

A few teachers at the school lost family members and friends in the terror attack - but they were back at their posts Wednesday, helping the students cope with the tragedy. (Stacy A. Teicher)

* * *

While most news outlets scrambled to cover the World Trade Center collapse from a distance, The Wall Street Journal found itself at the epicenter.

Staffers at the newspaper's headquarters - located just four blocks from the twin towers - had to run for cover.

Then, they had to put out a paper.

With their newsroom full of debris, reporters worked from a makeshift newsroom in New Jersey, or from home via e-mail.

Only 150,000 copies of the paper's 2 million print run failed to reach subscribers.

"This was a once-in-a-lifetime catastrophe," says Jim Pensiero, an assistant managing editor. "We as human beings were stunned; we as human beings had to cover the story." (The Associated Press)

* * *

Specialty shops, hardware stores, Kmarts, and Wal-Marts across the country have been selling out of American flags - a testament to national pride.

At the Colonial Flag and Specialty store in Sandy, Utah, customers were clutching flags by the handful. Don Rosenkrantz, a fire battalion chief, bought flags to hang on his fire truck. Martin Christensen, who already has a flag flying outside his home, was in line to buy a bigger one.

In Reno, Nev., car after car pulled up to Virgil Ballard's realty office to grab one of the 1,500 flags he was giving away.

"I wish I had a truckload," said Barby Fryer, manager of the Kmart in Schenectady, N.Y., which had sold out of flags by late Wednesday morning. (AP)

* * *

At New York's Bellevue hospital, Gov. George Pataki visited a firefighter who almost had to have his leg amputated so he could be freed from the rubble.

The governor asked him why he was willing to risk his life.

"What do you expect?" the firefighter told him. "I'm a New Yorker." (AP)

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