President Bush joined Pentagon officials Thursday in a ceremony honoring victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the Pentagon. Nearly 200 people were killed when a plane crashed into the Pentagon and rendered about one-third of the building unusable.. It took rescue personnel nearly two days to extinguish the fires that engulfed the wreckage. Describing the victims as heroes, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld tried to assuage the grief felt by the gathering of families, friends and colleagues. "They died because, in the words of justification offered by their attackers, they were Americans," Rumsfeld said. "They died then because of how they lived as free men and women, proud of their freedom, proud of their country and proud of their country's cause, the cause of human freedom." The President expanded on that theme in his keynote address, stressing that the sorrow caused by the attacks has since turned into a great resolve. "Today, we are a nation awakened to the evils of terrorism and determined to destroy [it], but to all of you who lost someone here I want to say, you are not alone," Bush told the mourners. "The American people will never forget the cruelty that was done here and in New York and in the sky over Pennsylvania." Bush also reassured the mourners, empathizing with their loss and reminding them that the nation shared in their sadness and that the injuries inflicted on the Pentagon would be healed. "The wound to this building will not be forgotten, but it will be repaired. Brick by brick, we will quickly rebuild the Pentagon," he said. On Sunday, the Bush administration launched a military campaign against Afghanistan's ruling Taliban forces, which have long supported the al Qaeda terrorist network believed to be responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks. "We gave that regime a choice, turn over the terrorist or face your ruin. They chose unwisely," Bush said. "Our cause is just and worthy of sacrifice. Our nation is strong of heart and firm of purpose inspired by all the courage that has come before. We will meet our moment, and we will prevail."
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