for National Geographic News
A traumatized America began resuming the routine motions of daily life
on Thursday following Tuesday's terrorist attacks that left thousands of
people dead and the country reeling in disbelief.
Expressions of sympathy poured in from millions of people around the world, while other nations vowed to support America in its monumental task of healing and recovery and in its efforts to eradicate the network of terrorism behind the attacks.
In their collective pain and anger, Americans bonded as a nation, with a renewed sense of devotion to the values and principles on which their country was built.
The sale of American flags was brisk, with many stores sold out by mid-day Wednesday. Tiny flags sprouted on lapels and the handles of bicycles, while larger flags were unfurled outside homes and apartment windows.
Sen. Charles Schumer of New York had called on New Yorkers to fly the American flag from their windows in a show of solidarity. Expanding on that heightened sense of patriotism and pride, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution Thursday urging all Americans to display American flags.
Many Americans continued flocking to Red Cross centers to donate blood or mobilized in rescue units to assist in searches to recover victims of the disaster. Those who had been stranded when flights were halted began returning home as trains, buses, and airports started resuming normal operations.
Religious services and prayer vigils were held across the nation. In many other countries, residents turned up at U.S. Embassies to leave flowers and demonstrate their sympathy and support for America in its time of overwhelming grief.
Echoing the sentiments of the nation, President George W. Bush said in a conference call Wednesday to New York officials: "I weep and mourn with America. There is a quiet anger in America." Aides said he planned to visit New York City on Friday for a day of "prayer and remembrance" and to thank rescue crews for their work.
Back in session amid beefed-up security, members of the House and Senate pledged Wednesday to "stand united" behind the President in the national process of recovering and rebuilding.
At government offices and other buildings across the country, U.S. flags flew at half mast. At the county courthouse in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, County Commissioner Paul Thibault said Wednesday as he reopened the building for the first time since the disaster: "In church last night, the message was, we are a nation set apart. You can't allow this barbarism to swerve us off what we need to do."
After an emergency session on Thursday, NATO declared that its member countries unanimously denounced the terrorist attacks on Tuesday and suggested the possibility of joint military retaliation. "An attack against one ally is an attack against them all," NATO Secretary-General George Robertson said at a news conference.