Associated Press WriterBARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. (AP) -- As chaos unhinged New York and Washington, President Bush commanded the full force of the United States government to "hunt down and to find" the terrorists responsible.
"Terrorism against our nation will not stand," he declared Tuesday.
In Florida for a pair of education speeches, the president scrapped his schedule and said, at the first reports of attacks on New York's World Trade Center, that he was hastening back to Washington.
But, with the White House evacuated under threat of attack and his wife hunkered down in an unidentified secure location, the president and Air Force One were rerouted -- under escort by military fighter jets -- to this Louisiana air base.
In a conference room dotted by portraits of decorated Air Force officers, the commander in chief announced that the U.S. military was on "high-alert status."
"Freedom itself was attacked this morning and I assure you freedom will be defended. Make no mistake. The United States will hunt down and pursue those responsible for these cowardly actions," Bush said.
First lady Laura Bush spoke with her husband by a secure military phone line before he took off from Sarasota, Fla.
Mrs. Bush and a handful of aides were whisked by motorcade from Capitol Hill, where she was to have testified to a Senate committee on education, to a hide-out away from the White House. There, the sequestered group huddled around a single TV in their hide-out and channel-surfed for the latest news, according to one person in the group.
Mrs. Bush also checked with her twin daughters at college to make sure they were safe.