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CNN Live Event/Special

New York Awaits Arrival of President Bush

Aired September 11, 2002 - 14:09   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: We have been talking a lot about the president and what he has been up today. His day began in Washington with a prayer service at a church near the White House. And before he left for Shanksville, Pennsylvania, he also took part in a ceremony at the Pentagon.
And as we said, his next step is New York, and John King is there ahead of the president.

And, John, we heard some of the strong words the president had for the nation, and the reliance upon the armed services that we're going to have to get used to in his earlier speech. What can we expect once he arrives in New York?

JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No words here at ground zero, Paula. It's perhaps fitting, you come here to ground zero to preview the president's remarks after that ceremony across the city.

One of the Port Authority officers killed here was a 44-year-old, 16-year veteran of the force, named George Howard. His badge will return to ground zero today in the pocket of the president of the United States. That badge was given to the president by Arlene Howard, the officer's mother, when the president first visited New York in the wake of the attacks. The president is carrying it with him today, we are told.

When Mr. Bush comes here to ground zero, a very different scene than we have seen throughout the day. I believe we can show you down there now, the flowers and other mementos left by the family members in that ring at ground zero. Those family members now cleared from the site, a security sweep under way.

The president will participate in a wreath-laying ceremony here. Also, leave a plaque, we are told, by the White House with this inscription, "Every life taken here, every act of valor performed here, the nation holds in honored memory."

No words from the president here at ground zero. As you noted, this is the final stop of his journey on this very difficult day. The president beginning with a moment of silence at the White House, a brief church service before that. It was at that Pentagon ceremony, where the president promised to win the war on terrorism, and that all of those killed, not just here in New York, but at the Pentagon and on those airplanes, those deaths would not be in vain.

And then, it was on to Shanksville, Pennsylvania, a wreath-laying with the president there. No words from the president in a public setting, but he did spend considerable time there with the families. It was the first time the president has visited the crash site of Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

And he will return here to ground zero a little more than two hours from now. Of course, one of the more memorable moments of the days just after the devastation of September 11 was when President Bush came here to rally, if you will, deliver a pep talk to the firefighters, the policemen, all of the volunteers, then in the urgent, desperate effort to find any survivors.

The president visiting the site then, and when a man said -- when the president spoke into that bullhorn and he heard a voice say, "We hear you, " he said, "I hear you, and those who did this will hear you." And the president will come here again today to pay tribute, a wreath-laying ceremony here.

We will next hear words from the president when he delivers an address to the nation tonight from Ellis Island; that in the 9:00 hour. After we do see the president in public here at ground zero, though, he will spend some more private time with the families who are still at a reception nearby -- Paula.

ZAHN: We have heard a lot of talk about how meaningful this is, the president to have the opportunity to have these one-on-one exposures to these family members. Can you give us some background on what kind of feedback you have gotten?

KING: Aides say the president is remarkable in these settings, and he has insisted, and rightfully so, that the media have no access to the meetings he has with the families.

We did see him with the families in Shanksville today, but the audio was turned off, so that we could see only the pictures, not the president's words.

Aides say when he was here the last time, much as we did just see in Shanksville, the president ran well over schedule, that he shakes hands, he poses for pictures. Some of those meetings, one-on-one meetings with family members are very tearful. Others are laughing with the president, are honored to be in his presence. And aides say that he likes to take the time to say hello to every one of them.

And aides say he was incredibly moved when Arlene Howard, the mother of that slain officer, handed the president George Howard's badge, and said that she wanted the president to carry it with him as a reminder of what had happened here. The president held it up when he delivered that joint address to the Congress a few days after the attacks. He has carried it with him at key moments since. And we are told that the president is always moved by the stories of the families, and because of that, he does keep that badge with him and wanted very much to carry it today as he makes what I'm sure will be a difficult return to this site for him.

ZAHN: All right, thanks, John. We'll be coming back to you as we get closer to the time of the president's arrival. TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT