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Wednesday, 11 September, 2002, 04:09 GMT 05:09 UK
'America's mayor' reflects
Rudolph Giuliani
Giuliani received a knighthood for his response to 11 September

"It was the worst day of my life - and maybe, it was the greatest day."

That's how Rudolph Giuliani summed up his ambivalence tonight towards the event that turned him from the simple Mayor of New York City into "America's Mayor".

When you act in a way that kills innocent people, you have just excluded yourself from civilised countries and your cause is unjust

Rudolph Giuliani
He came to meet the international media at a special briefing room in midtown Manhattan and he was running very late.

His communications director apologised from the podium by telling BBC News Online and other waiting journalists that he was coming straight from him mother's funeral.

Helen Giuliani, 92, died on Sunday night. It was the final funeral in what has been a year of funerals for the now-retired politician who has been more closely identified with "9/11" than any other.

Ambition intact

He made it clear to us that despite an incredible year in both his public and personal life - he went through high-profile and bitter divorce proceedings just a few weeks ago - his ambition for office remains intact:

"I've been out of office less than a year... In the future, and I don't know exactly when, I believe I would like to run for office again. But if you ask me which office, I don't know."

He won his status as the healer-in-chief of New York by helping to unite the city with a galvanising message of common purpose and inclusivity.

Many here believe that he is the only mayor in recent history capable of doing that.

Some, however, believe that his strong words would have come naturally to any incumbent.

Firefighters bury one of their colleagues
Firefighters say faulty radios meant more lives were lost
The firefighters' unions have gone further and last month accused him of "fooling" the public.

His administration's failure to upgrade firefighters' radio units, they believe, was responsible for approximately 120 deaths - the estimated number of men who failed to hear the order to evacuate the flaming towers.

Mr Giuliani had an answer for his critics, describing it as the most successful evacuation operation in American history, with 25,000 lives saved: "I don't think that any city could have been better prepared.

"If you had withdrawn a lot of police officers and firefighters from the building, if communications had worked better, you might have ended up with 3,000-4,000 more civilians dead."

'Soaring memorial'

He criticised the fact that he had not been asked to contribute any evidence to recent reports into the performance of the emergency services.

He said he was not missing being the mayor of New York, and happily restated his opposition to the views of his successor, Michael Bloomberg, over the issue of land use at Ground Zero.

The new mayor wants a mixed-use site that includes commercial and residential building.

Mr Giuliani said the "soaring memorial" he envisages could stand as tall as the towers themselves.

Judith Nathan
Giuliani's girlfriend Judith was with him
"I don't claim to be objective about this.There are many places in which you can build office building.

"You can't build a memorial any place else but there."

He was visibly drained by the events of the last few days.

Standing directly behind him at the podium were the police, fire and emergency services commissioners from his old administration.


Sitting to one side of the packed press room, dressed elegantly in black, was his girlfriend, Judith Nathan.

But his words of thanks, deep emotion and reconciliation when reflecting on the past year, contrasted with his blunt answer to a question about how much understanding had really been shown here in New York towards the causes of the 11 September attacks.

"Maybe the better response should be, we don't care about the root cause of terrorism.

"When you act in a way that kills innocent people, you have just excluded yourself from civilised countries... and your cause is unjust."

In that we had a flash of the old "Rudy" - the outspoken Catholic moralist who was not popular with many liberal sections of the city.

With his extraordinary popularity as speechmaker and endorser of Republican candidates around the country continuing, another political odyssey for "America's Mayor" is surely on its way.

Click here to watch residents of New York give their views about September 11

New York despatches





See also:

13 Feb 02 | Americas
10 Jul 02 | Americas
23 Dec 01 | Americas
26 Sep 01 | Americas
10 Sep 02 | Americas
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