City unites behind Giuliani
Outgoing Mayor described as more presidential than the President
By SIMON HOUPT
Thursday, September 13, 2001
NEW YORK -- In the aftermath of the World Trade Center disaster, New Yorkers dropped a fractious relationship with their frequently controversial mayor and united behind Rudolph Giuliani, as he worked heroically to direct search-and-rescue efforts and try to soothe the nerves of this fragile city.
In the minutes after the attacks on the Center, Mayor Giuliani quickly become the city's most public face. He raced to the site to help fire and police efforts and when the first tower collapsed, he urged rescue workers and reporters to follow him out of harm's way.
Time and again through the crisis of the first day, he joined rescue workers on the front lines, brushing ash and debris off his suit and tie. He toured the city's trauma centres and command posts, committing the combined forces of all available emergency workers to the task of locating and helping survivors.
New Yorkers were affected by Mr. Giuliani's show of humanity. At a news conference on the first day, he could barely contain his emotions while he praised the city's rescue workers and spoke of the hundreds of missing firefighters and police officers lost on the scene.
He slept few hours on Tuesday night and by yesterday afternoon he was looking drawn and emotionally exhausted, but offered a brave face for the city.
Through Tuesday and yesterday, he appeared regularly on national television, far more frequently than many investigators or U.S. President George W. Bush. In fact, some New Yorkers felt his leadership was more presidential than the President's.
"His performance has been splendid," said Michael Bloomberg, the media mogul and Republican mayoral candidate who is seeking to replace Mr. Giuliani.
"Bush has not yet made it clear that he's a wartime President, but Giuliani has made it very clear that he's a wartime mayor," said Zev Chafets, a columnist with the New York Daily News. "Giuliani has functioned in the last couple of days the way a leader in wartime functions. He's been extremely steady, very calm, very competent, and in some ways inspirational, in the sense that he's offering a vision of the rebuilding of the city."
At a news conference yesterday, forgoing his jacket and tie in favour of a sweatshirt and baseball cap with the logo of the New York Fire Department, Mr. Giuliani spoke firmly and with conviction about his vision for a renewed New York.
"I believe that not only are we going to work our way out of this, I know that in every sense the city is going to emerge stronger," he said, flanked by New York state Governor George Pataki and Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik.
"It's going to emerge emotionally and morally and politically and socially stronger, and it's going to be economically stronger because people are going to co-operate. They're going to help. New Yorkers should not feel alone."
He urged them to remain calm and resume their normal activities.
"I think people tomorrow should try to come back to work," he said. "We really want to get the economy of the city as much back to normal as possible. They should try if they can to come back to work, and they should use the stores and the restaurants."
A famous fan of the New York Yankees, Mr. Giuliani brought some laughs at a news conference where he feigned grudging acknowledgment of the city's status as a cultural centre.
"We're hopeful that Broadway will be able to open tomorrow. It's our single biggest tourist attraction. It's even a bigger tourist attraction than the Yankees or the Mets, which I don't admit very often."
Mr. Chafets said the events of recent days will reinvigorate New Yorkers' perceptions of their outgoing mayor.
"Of course it was a coincidence that these bombings took place on the same day as the election-day primaries [were scheduled], but I'm sure that most New Yorkers, given the chance, would very much like Giuliani to stay in office another four years, especially after this performance," he said.
Prior to the attacks, Mr. Giuliani was contemplating a slow and uneventful final four months in his eight-year reign. Last year, he was forced to pull out of a race against Hillary Rodham Clinton for a seat in the U.S. Senate after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Now he is physically weakened by treatment and politically battered after separating from his wife, actress Donna Hanover, and admitting to a relationship with another woman. He was quickly becoming a lame duck on the New York political scene.
The city's mayoral primaries, indefinitely postponed after the attacks, were due to mark the beginning of his final chapter in office.
Now, Mr. Giuliani is back in the national spotlight, composed and resolute in the face of almost unfathomable tragedy visited upon his city.