After the Attacks: Regrouping, Recovering, Rebuilding

Compiled from media reports
for National Geographic News
September 13, 2001
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."

Widespread Support

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.

Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair took a leading role in seeking a united European stance behind the United States. "It is important that Americans know that their allies and friends around the world stand shoulder-to-shoulder" with them, Blair said.

Italy's minister of industry, Antonio Marzano, called for Europe to unite in helping America to rebuild one of the World Trade Center towers as an expression of "solidarity" and a symbol of "brotherhood" toward the United States.

"It wasn't only an attack against the U.S., but the entire western world, and therefore Europe," he said. "The buildings should be rebuilt because it wouldn't be right to let a bunch of criminals think they've won."

New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani has said "there's no question" the city will eventually rebuild the affected area. Whether that effort would include resurrecting the twin Trade Towers was not clear.

A fear of many people in the wake of the attacks was the prospect of an impending war.

Marine reservist Carlos Shimabukuro was cheered by onlookers when he showed up at the World Trade Center site to aid the recovery efforts wearing his Marine uniform. "Everybody shook my hand, they all wanted to talk to me and tell me how proud they were of me," he said.

The 1st Marine Corps District reported Thursday from Garden City, New Jersey, that a number of former U.S. Marines have been contacting Marine Corps offices saying they want to serve their country again.

Gunnery Sgt. John M. Leach said he had received about 80 phone calls since Tuesday from former Marines wanting to re-enlist, compared with the usual volume of about two sign-up calls a day. "As soon as this incident happened, the phone has just been ringing and ringing and ringing," he said. "As soon as I got finished with one call, there were three more waiting for me to answer."

The majority of callers, Leach noted, were experienced veterans. "Most of the guys are combats veterans," he said. "They were in Somalia, Desert Shield, Desert Storm."

Relief Funds

President Bush told the nation: "We are prepared to spend whatever it takes to rescue victims, to help the citizens of New York City and Washington, D.C., to respond to this tragedy, and to protect our national security."

Corporate America began responding to the tragedy with generous financial assistance to help the families of police, fire, and rescue personnel who were killed in the disaster.

General Electric pledged to give $10 million. Cisco Corp. said it would contribute $6 million to local relief groups such as the Red Cross, with two-thirds of it going to the city relief fund.

An estimated 300 firefighters, 33 New York City cops, and at least 40 Port Authority police officers are believed missing in the rubble.

Although there were some reports of price gouging after the disaster, humanitarian gestures by many businesses were much more prevalent.

Many rental-car agencies dropped extra fees to help customers who were stranded across the country. Some refused to impose the normally higher fees usually required for renting cars for only a single day or for one-way destinations.

"It's a national crisis, and we are happy to help," said Budget spokeswoman Jennifer Sullivan.

Experts say it will take billions of dollars to recover from Tuesday's attacks. Some estimated that the wrecked buildings, loss of business deals, and loss of life and injury claims could push monetary losses to more than $20 billion.

The major losses to U.S. businesses in New York City and across the country are expected to compound the impact of the U.S. economic downturn.

But some insisted that while the immediate financial impact will be substantial, the U.S. economy will inevitably recover. "Retailers will do what they've done in the past, and that's to rally to support their local communities," said Scott Krugman, spokesman for the National Retail Federation. "We cannot measure what the impact is, but anyone saying 'recession' is being irresponsible."

Fears, But Indomitable Spirit

One of the most immediate financial impacts is likely to be a plunge in travel plans by Americans concerned about security and their families' safety. Analysts at PriceWaterhouseCoopers predicted that revenue from bookings at hotels and other lodging could fall to the lowest level in several decades.

Travel agents reported many cancellations. Most airlines, hotels, and tour operators appeared willing to relax rules about canceling or re-booking reservations without paying a penalty.

Peter Yesawich, a travel marketer for Yesawich, Pepperdine & Brown in Orlando, Florida, said people tend to resume travel fairly quickly after natural disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes. But the magnitude of Tuesday's disaster could have a greater deterrent effect, he said.

"It's the first time an incident of this incredible proportion has occurred at home, and in such an unpredictable fashion. That certainly adds to the potential anxiety level of travelers," he said.

The travel industry experienced major slumps after the 1991 Persian Gulf War, the 1988 Pan Am bombing, and a series of Middle East terrorist attacks in the mid-1980s, he noted. Yesawich said the two to three years after the Gulf War "were incredibly traumatic" for the U.S. travel industry as many Americans vacationed closer to home and avoided travel they perceived as high-risk, such as to foreign countries.

Christine Brooks, a frequent traveler from Newark, Delaware, echoed the fears of many. "I'm guessing that security checks may be done more carefully in the next few weeks, only to relapse when the dust settles," she said.

Yet some travelers vowed they would not be cowed by the recent attacks.

"We will not be deterred by the acts of cowards and villains," said Mel Goff of Colorado Springs, Colorado, noting that he and his wife planned to follow through on their planned vacation travel to San Francisco later this week. "I feel it is vitally important for Americans to continue with their lives immediately. Mourn our lost countrymen, but face our enemies with our spirit intact."

Goff said: "There are always going to be risks involved with living in an open and free country. We will have threats and perhaps even more terrorist attacks in the years ahead, but we cannot let it change the face of America."

Expressions of the same spirit of pluckiness occurred in New York City as stunned residents made a brave effort to begin resuming a sense of normalcy.

Cafes and the subways were full, but conversations were low key—"as if enthusiasm dishonored the dead," one media report observed. Sirens and church bells punctuated the quietness that came from a lack of traffic in lower Manhattan.

At police barricades close to the World Trade Towers, hundreds of New Yorkers gathered to applaud emergency vehicles and Army trucks as they passed by.

Greenwich Village residents Louise Sheingold and her children, Nick, 14, and Brett, 9, were among the clapping crowd. "They may have destroyed some buildings," Sheingold said, "but they can't destroy the spirit of New York."

Nick, however, captured the reaction of New Yorkers and other Americans alike. "It looks naked without the towers," he said, shaking his head. "It's going to take a long time to get used to it."

This summary report was compiled from news articles in the New York Post, USA Today, United Press International, Raleigh News and Observer, and The Detroit News.

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