U grad calls wife with plan to retake doomed Flight 93

WASHINGTON (AP) -President Bush branded the attacks in New York and Washington “acts of war” Wednesday and worked with Congress on legislation authorizing military retaliation. Federal investigators searched for clues and suspects from Florida to Canada and along the Internet.

“This will be a monumental struggle of good versus evil,” said Bush, as officials revealed that the White House, Air Force One and the president himself were targeted a day earlier. “Good will prevail.”

The known toll rose amid the rubble at the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, where rescue teams searched for survivors. A few were found in New York, but thousands of people were believed killed.

One victim, Bloomington, Minn. native and 1986 University graduate Tom Burnett Jr., apparently led passengers in foiling the attempt to target the White House with United Flight 93 on Tuesday.

In a radio interview with KCBS in San Francisco, Burnett’s wife Deena said she received a phone call from her husband from the plane, which eventually crashed outside Pittsburgh.

“He said they were talking about flying the airplane into the ground,” Deena said. “I told him about the World Trade Center. … He was surprised. I could tell he was alarmed and trying to piece together the puzzle.”

She also said her husband was apt to take action in such a situation.

“It was so characteristic of Tom, that I just have to laugh, because he’s a fighter and he went down fighting. He would not sit there and watch this happen and allow this to happen. It just wasn’t in his nature to do so,” Deena said.

Meanwhile workers continued to sift through the wreckage.

Bush asked Congress to find $20 billion in a tight federal budget to help rebuild and recover from the attacks, vowing to spend “whatever it takes.” Some House Democrats said the measure might give Bush too much leeway.

The president weighed a range of military options to punish the terrorists and any nation harboring them, while investigators said they had identified more than a dozen hijackers of Middle Eastern descent with ties to Osama bin Laden and other terrorist networks.

America’s NATO allies bolstered Bush’s case for military action, declaring the terrorist attacks an assault on the alliance itself. Bush sought to build a global alliance with phone calls to the leaders of France, Germany, Canada, Britain and Russia; he talked twice with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“An attack on one is an attack on all,” said NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told U.S. troops worldwide they will be called to arms “in the days ahead.” Secretary of State Colin Powell said the president will oversee “a long-term conflict.”

Officials said lawmakers and the administration were working on legislation to authorize the use of force under the War Powers Act. It was not clear how quickly it would be brought to the floor, but Democrats and Republicans alike expressed support. Bush, hoping for political cover from Congress, discussed the proposal with lawmakers at the White House.

A U.S. assault was not imminent, according to senior government officials, because one of the largest criminal investigations in the nation’s history was still under way.

Attorney General John Ashcroft said teams of three to six terrorists hijacked four planes and, using pilots trained in the United States, put the aircraft on their deadly courses.

Two struck the World Trade Center, one hit the Pentagon and a fourth crashed short of its target in Pennsylvania.

Ashcroft said the White House and Bush’s plane were targeted by terrorists, offering the theory as others raised questions about the president’s travel schedule Tuesday.

Officials did not detail the “specific and credible evidence” they said they had of the intended targets.

Twenty-four hours after the attacks, the fire was finally out at the Pentagon, where more than 200 were believed to have died in the airplane and the Pentagon. In an indication of the potential New York death toll, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said he believed the city had asked federal officials for 6,000 body bags.

“The nation mourns,” Bush said, “but we must go on.”

But the nation struggled to return to normal.

Government offices reopened and a bipartisan group of lawmakers joined Bush at the White House in a display of national unity. Limited air travel was restored to allow stranded tourists to return home, but regular flights were still banned.

Most schools and many businesses were closed in Washington. The nation’s stock markets were to remain closed until at least Friday.

“The America in which we woke today is far different from the one in which we woke yesterday,” said Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D.

Switzerland lowered its flags to half-staff in a show of support as leaders across the globe raised their voices against terrorism. Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, often at odds with the administration, donated blood for the victims.

On Capitol Hill, Congress passed a resolution declaring the country was “entitled to respond under international law.”

The attacks “were more than acts of terror,” Bush said. “They were acts of war.”