NEW YORK (AP) — The gruesome search through the graveyard of the World Trade Center yielded no survivors as the death toll mounted Thursday, and hopes dimmed for more than 4,700 missing souls. President Bush promised to visit New York to “hug and cry” with its shaken citizens.
Two days after the trade center was hit and destroyed by two hijacked passenger planes, swirling dust kept visibility limited and sanitation trucks waged a losing fight against the residue of the blast. Hundreds of family members searched for any sign of their loved ones.
Tens of thousands of residents still could not return to their homes in a closed-off lower Manhattan. Nerves were frayed by bomb scares and false alarms, both in New York and in Washington.
Even a small semblance of normalcy was yanked away: Airline flights at the New York area’s three busy airports began for the first time since Tuesday but were abruptly halted. Police said a man was arrested at Kennedy airport after trying to slip past security with a false pilot’s identification, and at least five others were detained at city airports.
A source told The Associated Press that the arrested man and three of the detained had tried to board separate flights to California on Thursday.
The city also brought in 30,000 body bags for pieces of human remains.
“Even scary movies do not happen like this,” said Enver Kesti, 42, a pizza chef who returned to clean up a gourmet shop that once sat in the towers’ shadows.
Bush declared Friday, the day of his New York visit, a “national day of prayer and remembrance.” He asked Americans to spend their lunch breaks taking part in services at their chosen places of worship, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said.
The president praised New Yorkers for showing “the compassion of America and the bravery of America.”
New York was not alone in counting its missing and dead. The Pentagon said 126 people in the building were killed in Tuesday’s plane attack. Seventy bodies had been recovered.
Add the 4,763 missing reported by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, plus the 266 passengers and crew members who died aboard the planes that hit the trade center, the Pentagon and a field southeast of Pittsburgh, and the total dead in Tuesday’s carnage could be more than 5,000.
That would be higher than the death toll from Pearl Harbor and the Titanic combined. A total of 2,390 Americans died at Pearl Harbor nearly 60 years ago, and the sinking of the Titanic claimed 1,500 lives.
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told reporters at the Pentagon that the U.S. response to the attacks that wrought these horrors would “unfold over time.”
“One thing that is clear is you don’t do it with just a single military strike, no matter how dramatic,” Wolfowitz said.
In Congress, a bipartisan coalition worked on approving two measures: an emergency anti-terrorism package that could cost $20 billion, and support for the use of force by Bush against those responsible.
Up to 50 people were involved in the attack, the Justice Department said, with at least four hijackers trained at U.S. flight schools. Saudi fugitive Osama bin Laden remained a top suspect.
Attorney General John Ashcroft said authorities had “thousands and thousands” of leads. He said they had determined that 18 hijackers were on the planes: groups of five on two planes and groups of four on the others.
In New York, the difficulties of extracting bodies from the rubble meant that while 184 deaths had been confirmed, city officials prepared to watch the total soar. The missing included nearly 400 city firefighters and police officers. Another 2,300 people were injured.
The lone bit of bright news was the recovery of two firefighters who slipped into an underground pocket beneath the rubble while searching for survivors on Thursday. The two radioed for help and were rescued by fellow firefighters several hours after they fell.
At One Liberty Plaza, an office building near the trade center site, volunteers were evacuated when the top 10 stories of the complex appeared unsteady. Workers fled, sprinting down the street.
At a grief center set up for families with missing relatives, Jeanine Nardone arrived to look for her brother. She had hung his photo in a Brooklyn subway station, hoping someone would recognize Mario Nardone — a 32-year-old Staten Islander, 6-foot-1, 180 pounds, bald with blue eyes, who worked on the 83rd floor of Two World Trade Center.
“He’s a strong person,” Nardone said. “He would not give up on us. And I’m not going to give up on him.”
Many family members stopped by the armory-turned-counseling center established by the city. Looking south from there, the seemingly endless plume of acrid, white smoke from the wreckage still corkscrewed above the Manhattan skyline.
At Bellevue Hospital, a blue wall erected around a construction site was covered with pictures and descriptions of the missing, and prayers for safe returns.
New Yorkers did take some small steps toward normal life. While everything south of 14th Street remained closed, the northern part of Manhattan became busier. Office buildings reopened, restaurants put out sidewalk tables and hawkers handed out flyers. Traffic on the streets and subways was up sharply compared to Wednesday.
The government gave the go-ahead for commercial flights to resume and some did, but schedules were expected to be in disarray, and heavy security was the rule.
Bond trading resumed, while Wall Street officials said the stock markets were expected to open again on Monday. The shutdown on the New York Stock Exchange was already longer than the two-day closure at the end of World War II; the next-longest lasted a week, after the 1929 crash.
But the National Football League called off the 15 games scheduled for this weekend, and all Division I-A college football games also were postponed. Major-league baseball extended its hiatus through the weekend.
In Washington, the Senate was evacuated because of a bomb scare, and officials disclosed that Vice President Dick Cheney moved to Camp David in what his spokeswoman called “a purely precautionary measure.”
“From a security standpoint, this is not business-as-usual any more,” said press secretary Juleanna Glover.
New Yorkers also remained edgy. On Staten Island, parents pulled children off school buses after a report that a car possibly linked to the terrorists had driven into the borough. At LaGuardia Airport, passengers were briefly evacuated from the just-reopened facility after a man said something about a device in a bag. Buildings around Manhattan were evacuated as authorities erred on the side of caution.
“Right now, a lot of people are panicking,” said Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik. “And they really have to be as cautious as possible.”