WASHINGTON, Sept. 12 -- Thirty-six hours after the most devastating terrorist attack in history, the United States government "has not yet made a determination who is responsible," Secretary of State Colin Powell said Wednesday as a fast-moving FBI investigation began to identify hijackers and their associates on the ground, some with passports from various Arab countries.
But amid the search for the villains, America found new heroes in the passengers of United airlines Flight 93 from Newark to San Francisco, who were last heard vowing to take on the hijackers who had seized control of the airliner and may well have saved the U.S. Capitol -- the presumed target of their aircraft.
"He went down fighting. I know he did," Deena Burnett of San Ramon, Calif., told CNN. Her husband, Thomas, 38, told her by cell phone that the passengers were about to tackle the hijackers in his last message before the Boeing 757 crashed in Pennsylvania, apparently en route for the nation's capital.
What happened during the final moments of Flight 93 may never be known, but the news that the passengers had tried to battle their hijackers heartened an America still stunned by tragedy, but beginning to chart its next steps in a world starkly divided between friend and enemies.
Friends there were. In New York, a special session of the United Nations Security Council unanimously condemned the attacks in a declaration Wednesday and backed President Bush to warn that not only the perpetrators but those who harbor them "will be held accountable." The resolution calls on all states "to work together urgently to bring to justice the perpetrators, organizers and sponsors of these terrorist attacks."
In Brussels, NATO Secretary-General George Robertson said the terrorist attacks on the U.S. financial and military centers at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon should be considered, under the terms of Article V of the NATO Treaty, as an attack on all members of the NATO alliance.
Enemies there also were. From Baghdad, the Iraqi News Agency quoted Iraq's President Saddam Hussein as saying Wednesday that the terror attacks in the United States were "the result of the thorns sown by its leaders in the world."
"Those thorns have not only bloodied the feet and the hearts of many, but also the eyes of people shedding tears on their dead whose souls have been reaped by America,' Saddam Hussein went on. "There is no place that does not have a symbolic monument that shows America's criminal acts against these victims."
In the Middle East, where Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat donated blood to help U.S. victims, militants declared their own condemnation of the United States. Abdel Aziz al Rantissi, spokesman for Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement, said: "The U.S. has committed aggression against all the peoples of the world. It has created enemies for itself everywhere."
In Washington, President Bush said the attacks were "more than acts of terror -- they were acts of war," using a phrase of precise military as well as symbolic importance to describe the use of hijacked airliners to destroy the World Trade Center in New York City and strike the Pentagon near Washington.
"The United States of America will use all our resources to conquer this enemy. We will rally the world," Bush said in a statement from the Oval Office while meeting with his national security staff. "This battle will take time and resolve. But make no mistake about it: we will win."
Secretary of State Colin Powell called for "a return to normalcy" Wednesday, as Transport Secretary Norman Mineta announced a limited re-opening of civilian air traffic to permit stranded passengers to return home.
"We are Americans -- we don't walk around terrified," Powell said, as officials weighed the resumption of financial trading and the re-opening of transport links.
But the task of getting American society and its economy back to speed will take place in the transformed context of what President Bush called "acts of war" against the country, and a new international resolve to back America in the battle against terrorism.
President Bush, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Powell met to assess the latest intelligence findings Wednesday afternoon, and to weigh American responses in the light of the strong international support. President Bush conferred by telephone Wednesday with British premier Tony Blair, with French President Jacques Chirac, Canadian premier Jean Chretien, Chinese leader Jiang Zemin and twice with Russian President Vlademir Putin.
It would be important to bring Muslim countries into the building international coalition against terrorism, Powell said.
"They have just as much to fear from terrorism that strikes at innocent civilians," Powell said, adding that no determination had yet been made on who was responsible for the attacks.
But a hardening of the American mood emerged in Powell's significant policy shift over Israel's controversial policy of preemptive strikes -- including the targeted killing of individuals believed to be planning terrorist attacks -- a policy that the U.S. has in the past criticized.
"If you are able to stop the attacks you should stop the attacks," Powell said.
At the Pentagon, Rumsfeld said there was hopeful news that the death toll might be fewer than 200, far lower than the 800 to 1,000 initially feared. In New York City, where other weakened buildings in the battered World Trade complex were threatened with collapse, the death toll threatened to be tragically far, far higher.
Touring the Pentagon wreckage Wednesday evening, President Bush said: "Coming here makes me sad, on the one hand; it also makes me angry."
"Our country will, however, not be cowed by terrorists, by people who don't share the same values we share, by people who are willing to destroy people's lives because we embrace freedom. The nation mourns, but our government will go on, the country will function," the president said.