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Rudy Giuliani: America's Mayor

In the wake of the attack on the World Trade Center, Mayor Rudy Giuliani showed New Yorkers and the world what great leadership is about.
Gordon Mott
From the Print Edition:
Rudy Giuliani, Nov/Dec 01

(continued from page 1)

September 11 was just the beginning.

Wednesday, September 12, arrived much too soon for most New Yorkers. A previous day glued to television sets, a short night and a fitful sleep had left everyone on edge. Each and every New Yorker, and every American, secretly wished that the horrible images were just nightmares and not reality. But against another pristine blue sky, the billowing clouds of smoke and dust filling the gap in the once-familiar skyline, gave the lie to that hope.

Mayor Giuliani had already found his footing, and his voice, managing to restore some of that hope in the early hours after the tragedy. As one pundit said, he managed to keep a "perfect pitch," in the words he chose and the things he chose to talk about in those first few days. In a news conference that day, he stared intently into the cameras and said, "We're going to come out of this stronger than we were before. Emotionally stronger. Politically stronger. Economically stronger." By then the tally of dead firefighters and police officers and Emergency Medical Technicians was a fact; 343 firefighters, 23 police officers and 2 EMTs were missing, either confirmed dead or presumed dead in the collapse. But Giuliani kept trying to reassure New Yorkers. "We must show we are not afraid. It shows our confidence."

By Thursday morning, the news was getting grimmer, and the dread was melting into despair. No one had been pulled out alive from the burning and smoldering rubble in nearly 24 hours. Amid the dark reports, people were rallying behind the mayor. "There's no question," Sgt. Michael Hanrahan was quoted as saying. "Giuliani is the man you want in charge of this situation." The mayor established a calm control over the rescue operation, and the fledgling efforts to get the city working again. "Do not overreact," he told New Yorkers. "People have to understand we are living with a great deal of faith here. Remain calm." He spoke with President Bush, and laid the groundwork for the president's visit the following day. During the day, he also revealed one of the horrific statistics that everyone had been waiting to hear: 4,733 people reported missing.

On Friday, Mayor Giuliani took President Bush on an aerial tour of Ground Zero, and reported later that the president had merely said, "Oh my." As they later walked into the site, the rescue workers stood on the mountains of debris, grimy from nonstop digging and removal of the heavy chunks and pieces of building debris and body fragments, and chanted: "U.S.A., U.S.A." But there were also cheers of "Rudy, Rudy, Rudy" as he guided the president through the hellish scene, wearing a Fire Department of New York windbreaker and baseball hat.

Saturday was a day for funerals in New York and the surrounding boroughs and suburban communities. While New Yorkers had found solace in their tears over those first four pain-filled days, the beginning of the rituals brought a measure of peace. Mayor Giuliani attended the funerals for Chief of Department Ganci and First Deputy Commissioner Feehan, the two firemen that Giuliani had parted with on West Street Tuesday as he searched for a command center. Rev. Mychal Judge, who died in the same group, was also laid to rest that day.

The mayor eulogized Ganci this way: "When the tower came down, he got his men out. He sent them north, and he went south, right into danger to get more of them out…You have to pay a big price for democracy. And now we're learning what that means. It means we have to sustain these losses; we have to have the strength to get through it."

During the day, the mayor also went to Ground Zero, and walked around alone, talking to the rescue workers and surveying the scene. He told Newsweek, "I'd taken so many people down there with cameras, I just wanted to walk by myself through there and see it and feel it and talk to people. While I was there, they found a firefighter and took him out. It was an unbelievable experience. The firefighters will not allow anyone else to extricate the bodies of their fallen brothers. They brought him down in between about 40 firefighters who stood there saluting and then a priest came and gave a blessing. They carried him off. If you watch that and you don't cry, then you have to question whether you're human."

 

Turning points are hard to pinpoint in times of crisis, but if one came, it took place amid the events of that first Sunday. Instead of just funerals and victim reports and updates on the tonnage removed from the site, Mayor Giuliani attended two events that held promises for the future: a promotion ceremony for fire department officials and a wedding.


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