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Spirit of America: After the National Prayer

Aired September 14, 2001 - 13:18   ET


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: The national prayer service at the cathedral, National Cathedral here in Washington has just concluded, as we listen to the sound of tolling bells.

We heard the Reverend Billy Graham say this is a tragedy that could have torn this country apart. Instead, it has united us. He said, if the terrorist wanted to tear the nation apart, it worked the other way. He also talked about underneath the World Trade Center, which crumbled after the two airplanes crashed into the twin towers. He said, underneath the debris is a foundation that is not destroyed. He said, we, too, have a choice whether to implode and disintegrate or to become stronger.

President Bush speaking toward the end of the service. We are in the middle hour of our grief, he said. He talked of offering deepest sympathies to the children, the families of those who are missing, who are dead. He spoke words of comfort, but he also spoke words of firm resolve. He said, this is a war that was started by others at a time unknown to us; it will end at an hour of our choosing.

CNN's White House correspondent John King listening and watching at the White House.

And I'm here now at the cathedral with the Reverend Franklin Graham.

You were just saying to me, Reverend Graham, that the American people really don't have a sense right now of what we are facing as a nation.

FRANKLIN GRAHAM: I don't think so. I think many people think that maybe this is closure. But in some ways this is the beginning of a long struggle for our way of life, and I believe there is a war that is in front of us.

And you know, my father spoke of the hope and we as a nation, we need that hope. When we talk of the hope as Christians that we have in faith, in Jesus Christ, God's son. And he spoke about the foundation that you mentioned, of the foundation that we have as a nation, which is there. And even though we've been attacked, our foundation needs to be on Almighty God. And we as a nation, we need to turn back to God and to build on that foundation, which was started by our forefathers many years ago. And of course the president talked about riding the world of evil. And one day, I belief, that will happen. When God comes and when Jesus Christ, the son of Almighty God, establishes his kingdom here on Earth, we'll see evil removed. But until then, evil's going to be present with us and needs to be fought, and we need to oppose it, and we need to work for good in this world while we have the opportunity.

WOODRUFF: Your father spoke with remarkable energy. You were telling me he's 83 years old, he walks with a cane, sometimes now he walks slowly, but his words were vigorous and they were strong. It struck me, Reverend Graham, he said at one point, we came -- we come together to affirm our convictions that God cares for us whatever our ethnic, political or religious background. He was speaking to everyone.

GRAHAM: He was. And God does care for all of us and he loves all of us, and that's what my father wanted to get across the nation. And God is a god of love, and he's a caring god.

WOODRUFF: I mention that because this is a time when many of us might be tempted to look at those of Arab backgrounds from the Middle Eastern part of the world and just in a blanket sense turn against those people.

GRAHAM: We shouldn't do that. I have many Arab friends, many Muslim friend, they're wonderful people who, of course, are just as brokenhearted and disgusted over the incidents of this past week as we are. And we should not just turn our hatred toward people of another race or of another religion.

We need to focus on those who are actually responsible for this. And it wasn't a race of people who did this, it was a small group of people who are bent on the destruction of this country, those Islamic fundamentalist that need to be stopped. So I plead with people not to paint in a broad brush, so to speak, the people of people of the Middle East. They're wonderful people.

WOODRUFF: Do you have any doubt, Reverend Graham, that we are headed for a war?

GRAHAM: Yes, I believe so. I really do. And how long it will be, I don't know. But you're not going to be able to attack these terrorist and defeat them in a 100 days. It's not going to be a Gulf War. This is going to take time.

WOODRUFF: You know, it's been said over -- well, ever since Vietnam and perhaps before that, Americans have been reluctant to think of sending our young people off to the far corners of the Earth to die for causes that Americans didn't necessarily understand or support. But I hear you saying this is different.

GRAHAM: This is different, this is for the sake and security of this nation. And this may sound rough, Judy, but we need to use every weapon in our arsenal that need be to defeat this enemy. And I don't think we should hold back. And we'll make a great mistake if we hold back our technology and hold back our weapons and put young men and women in there and sacrifice them because we're scared to use some of our major weapons. And I think we're going to have to use every -- and I hate to say it, hellish weapon in our inventory, if need be, to defeat these people.

WOODRUFF: Do you really believe that the American people are prepared now to have young Americans die?

GRAHAM: No. But I think they're prepared to stop this, and not to put our young men needlessly or our young women needlessly. And yes, there may be some young men and women whose lives may be lost, and I pray not. And that's why I think we need to use these weapons that we have, and not our young men and not our young women and just sacrifice them as (UNINTELLIGIBLE). But let's use the weapons we have, the weapons of mass destruction if need be and destroy the enemy.

WOODRUFF: We're watching the front of the National Cathedral here in Washington. Just -- a prayer service called just yesterday by President Bush just concluded. We're seeing an extraordinary coming together of presidents, former President Clinton, former President Gore, whom as I mentioned earlier, President Bush specifically asked to come to this service.

Many of the people in the cathedral, members of Congress, member of the Bush administration, but also families suffering. We saw people clearly emotionally moved, having a hard time holding back their emotions, and we can only assume they are families of those who are missing and dead at the Pentagon and perhaps in New York City.

GRAHAM: And I think the president's message was probably one of the greatest speeches I have heard in recent times, especially -- I think it's the greatest message he's ever given in a speech. And I think he touched the heart of America with his words. He reminded us of the stories and of the heroes, the real heroes, of people who have sacrificed their lives already to save others: the firefighter, the priests, the men and women in uniform that died on their post. And I think he's -- I think this may be one of the great hours in our nation right now as we prepare to go forward and deal with this.

WOODRUFF: We're watching former President Clinton speak with head of the Democratic Party, Terry McAuliffe. This is one of those moments when political parties -- the differences between the two parties seem to fall away.



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