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Breakfast with Frost
Rudy Guiliani
Rudy Guiliani
Sunday 23rd December on BBC One

In an exclusive interview for the 'Breakfast with Frost' programme, the Mayor of New York - Rudy Guiliani - has talked in detail on camera for the first time about the way he coped with the terrorist attack on September 11th and his plans for the future.

Interview transcript:

DAVID FROST:
Well we're here, in City Hall, in the Blue Room about to talk to the mayor of New York - some say the Mayor of America now - Rudy Guiliani, welcome - well I suppose you should say welcome because it's your place isn't it?

MAYOR GUILIANI:
Welcome David.

DAVID FROST:
And the Blue Room this Blue Room was filled with smoke -

MAYOR GUILIANI:
The Blue Room was filled with smoke, filled with soot, the carpet was white and this, the whole building had to be abandoned on September 11. We had to evacuate because part of the cloud, think of it as a nuclear cloud ... the first building went down a lot of the cloud that was driven through the streets of the city came north, so it filled all of City Hall Park, came into the building itself and when I came back here to look at it, the next day or the day after, I don't know exactly when, I was shocked to see, it looked like a ghost town. It was all white, all over the place.

DAVID FROST:
And where were you - everybody asks each other that, this question, but - where were you when you first heard the news?

MAYOR GUILIANI:
I was having breakfast at the Peninsula Hotel, with Dennison Young and Denny was notified by the police that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Centre. It was described as a small plane, a twin-engine one. And I think it was described as a twin-engined plane had accidentally hit the World Trade Tower and that had created a huge fire. This, this was within minutes of the time when it happened.

DAVID FROST:
So you -

MAYOR GUILIANI:
So I immediately got into my van - which is what I drive around in. Denny and I got in the van and we headed down Fifth Avenue, which is where the Peninsula Hotel is, south - directly south - to the World Trade Centre. And as we were driving down toward it I started thinking, ... and saying, sort of talking about it, how could this be accidental? If it was a small plane how could it have gone so far off course as to hit a building? So immediately we began to suspect that this was an attack of some kind. As I got to Greenwich Village coming down, which is a little more than half way from where I was to the World Trade Centre, it was the first time I could see the World Trade Centre, I could actually see flames. And I passed St Vincent's Hospital and I saw that -

DAVID FROST:
Neither of them had collapsed at this point?

MAYOR GUILIANI:
Neither of them collapsed, and the second plane hadn't, had not hit yet. I looked over and I saw St Vincent's Hospital, which is in Greenwich Village, and I saw a lot of doctors and nurses on the street with stretchers and it looked like a war zone scene to me. It was a scene I had never seen before in New York City. It looked to me like a scene from a war zone. They were standing there in their green scrubs with stretchers out as if waiting, as if - actually they were waiting - for the casualties to be brought to them. And that was the first time I registered in my mind this must be something really momentous because they wouldn't be out there if they weren't getting reports there were going to be a lot of casualties. So I called up - again I couldn't reach the head of emergency management, I couldn't reach the ... fire commissioner, I got the police commissioner again - and he told me they had found a command centre, which once again reiterated where we were to meet him and just as I was in the process, just as I had finished that call, I was watching the World Trade Centre and I saw a big explosion, which I thought was just a further explosion in World Trade Centre One. That was actually the second plane hitting. We didn't know it when we saw it because we were coming down from the north so the North Tower blocked the South Tower, so when the plane actually hit and we saw this explosion, it appeared to us as if it was just the same fire exploding further. Within less than a minute, within 30 seconds, we got called, police radio, and were told another plane had struck the second tower. Immediately all of us in the car, the two police officers, Denny and I said then obviously it's a terrorist attack. I jumped out of the van and the police commissioner and several other people - deputy mayor Joe ... - came running up to me. And Joe, my deputy mayor for operations, said it was terrible. It's a tremendous fire, people are trapped, people are jumping out of the buildings.

DAVID FROST:
That was one thing, that I mean was the most ... and you actually saw it, the horror of it, you actually saw people jump out of those buildings?

MAYOR GUILIANI:
Actually I looked up at them, looked up at the top of the tower, and I saw things coming out of the top of the building. And when I first looked up, my first impression was that Joe was wrong, it couldn't be that people were jumping out of the building, that must be debris. So I started looking up to the top of the tower, which was an incredible thing to see, the flames coming out of it, the smoke coming out of it, and all of a sudden I saw a man - I think it was a man - jump out of a window. And I just had to stop. Even though it was probably dangerous to just stand there, I had to stop because I was transfixed. I'd never seen anything like this before in my life. And I, and at that point I realised that Joe was correct and what he had described before as debris had been human bodies. And I saw this man come all the way down and hit the roof of another building, one of the World Trade Centre small buildings. And I, I - I remember to say this, saying something like that now we're going through an experience we've never been through before and this is, this is like a different, we're in a different thing here that we really never experienced before we're going to have to invent our response to it. That we hadn't, this is not the part that we'd planned for. Then I went up to the fire department command post and met with Pete Dempsey who was the chief of the fire department, Bill Feehan his first deputy. They were running a command post. He said they were confident that we can save everybody below the fire. And I knew that was a euphemistic way to say that we have to sacrifice everybody above.

DAVID FROST:
And you asked your friend Father Judge to pray for everybody.

MAYOR GUILIANI:
As I left them, as I left the fire people there, I said, I said to them, you know, good luck, shook hands with them, god bless them, and they said they were going to move a little to get out of the debris falling. I saw Father Judge walking toward the scene and I said to him, reached over, across a, an aisle, reached over, grabbed his hand and said father pray, pray for us. And he looked at me and smiled - a very, very handsome man, very um, beautiful, a Franciscan priest - and said "I always do. I always do." And shook hands, gave a little wave, and he walked off. That was the last time I saw him. And um -

DAVID FROST:
And then came the impact of when the, when the two towers collapsed.

MAYOR GUILIANI:
I was in, I was in the police, makeshift police command centre at the time, on the phone, waiting to talk to the vice president. And I was saying to his secretary, a woman calling from the White House said the vice president is on the phone. So I, I said Mr Vice President, Mr Vice President - it sounded like the phone went out - and then the next thing I heard was someone said 'the tower collapsed.' I looked out of the little cubicle I was in, and my image in my mind was that the radio tower on top of the World Trade Centre had collapsed - it was inconceivable to me that the entire World Trade Centre would have collapsed. I interpreted the tower to be the radio tower. But then I saw the desk shaking, like an earthquake - a small shake on the desk - and I realised it was something worse than that. And then one of the police officers said to me, he said 'Mayor, this is dangerous we have to get out of here. We have to evacuate.' So I said okay. So our entourage, we all went down into the basement, past the exit doors that wouldn't open, we finally went through like a labyrinth, found an exit door, and the janitor pushed it - I think I half expected it wasn't going to open because the others hadn't opened. And when it opened, you felt the sort of sense of relief that you were going to get out of the basement but it exited into a lobby, a big glass-top lobby and when you looked outside things were much, much worse.

DAVID FROST:
And how many, will we ever know exactly how many people perished?

MAYOR GUILIANI:
I don't think we'll ever know. The um, right on the street, as we were trying to re-establish city government and figure out where we were going to locate - and we still hadn't yet, we were just communicating by cell phone - I asked someone to find out for me how many casualties we had at Pearl Harbour, how many people were at the World Trade Centre, what was our, from all the logs that we have and how many people work there and how many people were there, the best we've been able to do is that there probably were 30,000 people in those buildings at the time the first plane hit. Working, delivering, commuting - underneath the buildings is a big transportation hub, involving people coming in from New Jersey, West Chester, other parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn. Right now, the best number that we have in terms of missing and dead, confirmed dead, is about 3100. Are there more people that we don't have records of? Yeah sure, there has to be. With numbers that large. So as the city and I keep saying, what we have to focus on is that these police officers and fire-fighters and emergency workers and EMTs who did this, rescued over 25,000 lives. Nobody's ever succeeded in rescuing that many people.

DAVID FROST:
And what do you think would be the right memorial for the people, for those people who died? I mean do you think at some stage we should rebuild two proud towers or, or what?

MAYOR GUILIANI:
I think the right, I think the right memorial - artistically I can't, aesthetically I can't tell you what that is, it has to be something that grips the imagination and, and just focuses our attention on this event. I, I believe in the age we live in, some of this memorial has to be interactive. It has to be a, an opportunity for people to relive this experience, so that we reduce the situation were it may happen again in the future. People that relive the um, the lives of the people that were lost, the bravery of the rest, the stories of the bravery of the rescue workers, to show that good triumph over evil. Here, here, the evil involved, attacking an innocent civilian population, in the most horrendous way anybody could possibly imagine, and the objective, I have no doubt, was to kill five times more people. And because of the bravery of these rescue workers and their professionalism and how well trained they were and how they were willing to give up their life for other people, they saved a lot more people than died. People have to relive that experience, just how they did that. It's one thing to say it, it's another thing to talk about the fire-fighters who, you know, remained on the 18th floor so that people could evacuate, knowing that they may never get out. Or people that I've read about, the civilians that I know about who let other people get onto elevators so that every, all their workers could get out, but stayed there until the last worker was out and therefore died. People need to hear those stories, like we've heard about the Titanic and, or Pearl Harbour. The second thing people need to do, from, from an interactive um way of doing this is the story of terrorism and how to control ideology because that's really what it is, it's out of control ideology. In this case the perversion of religion, what it can do, how it can distort the human mind, human heart, how our societies keep making the same mistake, we underestimate the capacity of our enemies and when they're not overtly aggressive we go to sleep - either militarily or in preparation for terrorism. Well we shouldn't do that in future we should be more prepared um as, as a world, and not, and not tolerate governments that sponsor terrorism, support terrorism. I think that all has to be part of how this memorial works. And then, once you've figured all that, then after you've figured that out, then how much economic development should you do? Should you do half of it? A quarter of it? But the main focus of this has to be a soaring, beautiful, highly-informative, educational, historical memorial.

DAVID FROST:
And it can be uplifting even after such -

MAYOR GUILIANI:
Definitely.

DAVID FROST:
- a disaster because the heroism is an example to all.

MAYOR GUILIANI:
Sure.

DAVID FROST:
Do you think that your childhood prepared you for this, for this ordeal, for this crisis? You know your father always saying you must be the calmest person in the room and so on and a strong religion within the family - do you think that was the most important preparation you had for this?

MAYOR GUILIANI:
I think my father was probably the most important preparation, deep down, he had had all the experiences of a life time, and having been mayor of New York City for seven and three quarter years, having been a United States attorney, official of the Justice Department, having had to deal with organised crime, the danger that that could create and what, what to do about that psychologically in your mind so it didn't inhibit you from doing what you were doing. And then also I think on a personal basis, having had prostate cancer and having to deal with it, having to deal with your own mortality -

DAVID FROST:
That was, that was a total shock.

DAVID FROST:
... that was a complete shock, you had no inkling, no warning.

MAYOR GUILIANI:
No inkling, no warning, no symptoms, no uh - it wasn't as if I had symptoms for four or five months and I was hiding them or, just went for a test, an ordinary test, and all of a sudden I was told I had cancer - my father died of prostrate cancer! So immediately it became a cause of even more emotion and concern than maybe it would have been if that wasn't the case. But I had to deal with it, I had to organise myself to deal with it, I had to figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life and get treated and go through a long treatment programme. And I think that gave me a lot of strength, it gave me a different perspective on life, um, so when you face, when you face challenges that are totally unanticipated I think you either grow as a person or you shrink and somebody once told me - I don't remember who it was - you might as well grow up, it's a lot better to grow than shrinking.

DAVID FROST: Yes.

MAYOR GUILIANI:
And I think that's, I think that's what happened to me in going through the prostate cancer. And I think that's what's happened to me in dealing with the World Trade Centre

DAVID FROST:
And, and the treatment's over and you're, you're here.

MAYOR GUILIANI:
I'm 100 per cent cured, I'm in great shape and I often think, in the strange way you think about these things, but that does no good, that I wonder what I would have done if it had happened a year earlier when, when uh, when I was going through the treatments, where I had to take a nap for two hours a day and get sick. Um -

DAVID FROST:
Well if you wanted to have a test of that, how hard you could work and how your stamina is- you couldn't have had a more testing one.

MAYOR GUILIANI:
When you, when you deal with a situation that is totally unimaginable you invent how you deal with it. And all the experience of a lifetime help you or hurt you in dealing with them.

DAVID FROST:
You said, once, you said that your cancer had made you less interested in politics but in a holding pattern. Does that mean that you would absolutely rule out something like a run for the presidency?

MAYOR GUILIANI:
I wouldn't rule anything out but what the combination of curing the prostate cancer and dealing with the World Trade Centre says to me is that politics is not what life is all about. Maybe before then, particularly before the World Trade Centre, my whole life was revolving too much around just politics. Now it's part of my life, it's a healthy good part of my life but it doesn't, there are other things to do, other things that are more important. And maybe that's no different than anybody that's in business and is a workaholic. That you, whether you're running a company, creating a business for yourself, in the media, and you're driven by what you want to do and succeed in. It takes a life-threatening situation to say to you 'wait a second, this isn't the only part of your life, this is a part of it, it can be enjoyable, it can be fulfilling, but it can't dominate it.

DAVID FROST:
And you said once, you said recently, in politics we spend all this time sub-dividing, and I've spent the last few months uniting people.

MAYOR GUILIANI:
That's correct. And it's what the experience of the World Trade Centre taught me that you have to work very, very hard to find the common threads if you want to be a leader and that because politics in America, in England and a lot of the free world, politics is divided into at least two political parties and often more, people are always looking for the source of division because that's what distinguishes them. And it seems to me we have to try to organise ourselves so we, we look for the points of unity. And this attack has done that for us, and it's done it for me personally.

DAVID FROST:
And in terms of another attack, a horrible thought but you said on one occasion we've made, we've taken all the precautions we can, whether it's biological or other things, I mean how do you approach the future in that sense? Do you fear another attack?

MAYOR GUILIANI:
I anticipate another attack and try as much as I can to figure out what it will be, where it will be, are we prepared for it, are we doing all the things that we can do to prepare for it. Long before the World Trade Centre, and one of the reasons I think our city was able to respond to it to the extent it responded to it well, was that we kept, we kept doing drills and table-top exercises and, and play-acting scenarios where we would bring everybody together, police, fire, health, sometimes the federal government, the state government, and play-act an anthrax attack, a saran gas attack, a bombing, a hijacking, a plane crash. We never play-acted bringing down the World Trade Centre, that was beyond anything we'd imagined. But because we had play-acted all the other things, we had at least gone through a lot of the things that we needed to know. So after the attack, we know continue to try to anticipate new things, you know, now, after the World Trade Centre attack, just as things were calming down, the whole anthrax thing began.

DAVID FROST:
Are you convinced by now that that was a domestic thing -

MAYOR GUILIANI:
No.

DAVID FROST:
- and not an overseas terrorist ?

MAYOR GUILIANI:
I'm not convinced.

DAVID FROST:
You're not.

MAYOR GUILIANI:
No. I don't know what it was. I don't know if it was either and I don't, I don't make conclusion without exact facts. I don't think, until we find who did it, we're going to know whether it was a domestic situation or a terrorist situation either domestic or foreign. I just don't think we know the answer to that yet.

DAVID FROST:
Will New York ever be the same again?

MAYOR GUILIANI:
You bet. It already is back. Maybe some people just don't know it yet. It's better because spiritually its a stronger place. And people know it better and respect it more. The people of New York handled themselves in such a brave, determined way, that they have distinguished themselves, to the whole world. Very much like the people of London did during the

(DAVID FROST:)
the Blitz - the 1940s -

MAYOR GUILIANI:
- the Battle of Britain. Now in the case of New York it was one day, in the case of London it was over 13, 14 months, but the one day attack was so devastating that it could have destroyed a weaker people, destroyed their spirit. And instead, and I know, I know New York probably better than anyone if, certainly there's no one who knows New York better, better than I do, not just from being mayor, from growing up here and being a United States attorney here, I think, you know, I put, I put half the people in the city jail here. And I know that, I know this place really well The spirit of this place is much stronger than in my lifetime, and my lifetime spans the end of the Second World War. It's more united, people are proud of being New Yorkers, they, I think, realise, that like a heavyweight championship fight, the other, the opponent has knocked them down and that within seconds they got up off the canvas and took the best punch and are now functioning like champions themselves. So I think this city is stronger, spiritually, than it's ever been.

DAVID FROST:
That's a, that's a very exciting response. Obviously financially, in terms of 79,000 jobs lost last month or in terms of tourism and things like that, it will take time, you've talked spiritually which is - economically it will take ten years perhaps.

MAYOR GUILIANI:
No. No, much less. No. Much less. No. For - the most important thing about a city is the spiritual part, the economic part will always follow from the spiritual part. If the, if the spirit of the people is determined and optimistic, no matter what's going on in the economy, it will turn ... because they'll make it turn.

DAVID FROST:
And so with the passion you feel about New York, does it make - it must do - what's the toughest thing about having to say goodbye to the mayoralty? In a few days time you'll no longer be mayor.What does it feel like, what's the most difficult, it must be painful in a way?

MAYOR GUILIANI:
It was for a while but I've, I think I've - basically had a lot of passion, and a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of an operatic in many ways, because I love opera, but ultimately I'm philosophical, and I've had a long time to prepare for the fact that I have terms and the mayoralty is over on December 31st of this year. And now I've kind of gone over the other side of the mountain, thinking about, you know, what am I going to do next year, what new challenges lie ahead, how I can create an interesting future and challenge myself to do things I hadn't done before, and at the same time I feel like I've given everything I can give to the city, there isn't a, there isn't a thing that I've held back in what I can give to the job that I love so much. I'm going to give lectures, speeches, and I'm going to get involved in business, and create some businesses that have me involved with my friends, and have me involved with people that I care about. I'm not exactly sure what they are yet. It will be a lot of excitement trying to figure that, trying to figure that all out. Uh, and at the same time I'll remain very active in politics. Uh, I will work very hard to help President Bush in any way that I can, I will work very hard to make sure that the Republicans hold onto the House of Representatives and maybe regain the Senate. So I will, I will remain in politics, but it just will not be the only thing that I do in my life. There will be a lot of other things that I'll be doing at the same time.

DAVID FROST:
Are you planning to walk down the aisle for a third time, like it says in some of the columns?

MAYOR GUILIANI:
Well I think I have to, I have to first resolve, first I have to resolve some of my personal situation in order to make that decision.

DAVID FROST:
(laughs)

MAYOR GUILIANI:
I um, I have very, a beautiful and wonderful relationship with Judith Nathan, she was a very important part of getting me through all that I dealt with, with prostate cancer, both because of what she's like as a person and she's a nurse, understood a great deal of, of what was needed. And she was a real, real partner in dealing with the World Trade Centre, both from an emotional point of view and just practically in helping me, set up the family centre and helping me just deal with a thousand other, a thousand issues.

DAVID FROST:
But those are two crises actually that it would be very tough to handle on your own, without moral support.

MAYOR GUILIANI:
(OVERLAPS) Impossible. Impossible to handle it on your own, you need somebody, it ought to really be somebody you love and loves you, and you need to work with people that you love and love you. And I have, I have the most incredible group of people that I work with - they're like my family. And during the World Trade Centre and dealing with that, the fact that we were all family members and knew each other so well was a great strength to the city. My deputy mayors, the fire commissioner, the police commissioner, head of emergency management, the commissioners who run the different agencies, my chief of staff, my communications director, all, all these people functioned together from the point of view of loving the city, so they'd do anything for it, and loving each other.

DAVID FROST:
Once again Rudy, I can't think of anyone who deserves more to live happily ever after. Thank you very much, ...

MAYOR GUILIANI:
Thank you.


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