The president and his wife made many stops to observe the Sept. 11 anniversary.
NEW YORK (AP) -- President Bush and his wife, Laura, stood in somber silence Sunday after laying wreaths at the site where the twin towers of the World Trade Center once soared. He later pledged "renewed resolve" to remember the lessons of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
The Bushes set floral wreaths adrift in reflecting pools that mark the former location of the north and south towers at the beginning of a fifth-anniversary tour that will take them to all three sites of devastation.
They uttered no words at the ceremony, and walked hand-in-hand on the floor of the cavernous pit, after a slow procession down the long, flag-lined ramp from the street level four to five stories above.
The Bushes then attended a service of prayer and remembrance at nearby St. Paul's Chapel and stopped by a rebuilt firehouse to greet firefighters.
"Laura and I approach tomorrow with heavy hearts. It's hard not to think about people who lost their lives," Bush told reporters after meeting with relatives of 9/11 victims at a visitor center near the firehouse. The original firehouse, on the rim of the pit, had been destroyed in the attack.
"Tomorrow is a day of sadness for a lot of people," Bush said. "I vowed that I'm never going to forget the lessons of that day. ... So tomorrow is also a day of renewed resolve."
They were the first stops of nearly 24 hours of observances at the three sites where terrorists wrought death and destruction and transformed his presidency. Nearly 3,000 Americans were killed in the attacks.
He was to visit with firefighters and other emergency workers today at a firehouse in lower Manhattan; attend a ceremony at the field in Shanksville, Pa., where one of the hijacked planes hurtled to the ground; and participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Pentagon.
He also was to speak to Americans during a prime-time address tonight from the Oval Office.
Accompanying the president and first lady at ground zero were New York Gov. George Pataki, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Rudy Giuliani, who was New York mayor at the time of the attacks.
Across New York, residents marked the day at other ceremonies large and small. From a service of remembrance at St. Patrick's Cathedral in midtown Manhattan to a chant at a Buddhist temple on Staten Island, New Yorkers observed the somber anniversary with prayer and reflection.
Bush and his wife wore grim expressions as they took their places for the interfaith service at St. Paul's. The 240-year-old Episcopal church, across the street from the site, escaped damage and became a center of refuge for weary rescue workers.
Sitting next to Bush in the pew was Jane Vigiano, who lost two sons in the attack -- Joe, a policeman and John, a firefighter. Sitting next to Laura Bush was Bob Beckwith, the retired firefighter who handed Bush a bullhorn on the president's first ground zero visit.
On their way in, Bush and his wife greeted Arlene Howard, the mother of 9/11 victim George Howard, a New York Port Authority police officer, with a kiss on the cheek. Bush keeps Howard's badge as a constant reminder of the attacks. She also sat in the same pew with the Bushes, but farther down.
A printed message from the Rev. James H. Cooper said: "The message to people who visit St. Paul's is simple: Go back to your communities knowing that a place of love stood next door to ground zero. Try to make the world a better place."
Outside church, several dozen protesters shouted "arrest Bush" as the president's motorcade left. They held balloons that said, "Troops home."
He also visited a firehouse close by the ground zero construction site, shook hands with firefighters and entered a not-yet-opened visitor center.
Even before Bush left Washington, surrogates from Vice President Dick Cheney on down spent the Sept. 11 anniversary's eve vigorously defending the administration's record on improving the national defense over the past five years.
"There has not been another attack on the United States," Cheney said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "And that's not an accident."
On television and newspaper opinion columns, Cabinet secretaries and agency heads sought to make the case that the government under Bush has made important changes that have lessened the risk of attack.
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