We're Under Attack

Near misses, dead phones, last words: an oral history of 9/11 by Giuliani and his aides

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GIULIANI: I don't remember hearing a rumble, but I see the desk shaking. Still, in my mind, it is not the building collapsing. In my mind, the radio tower [a 360-ft. mast atop Tower One] came down, and that's the noise I'm hearing. When I look around, what I see is something close to a nuclear bomb. I see dark smoke. The decision is made to evacuate.

We go to the basement and try many different exits, all of which are locked. We come back upstairs, but things have gotten much worse outside. Things are flying through the air. We can't get out.

At this point, two guys from the building show up. They say there's an exit downstairs that leads to the building next to this--and it faces east, so we'll be able to exit. So we go downstairs, and I'm thinking, I hope these doors aren't locked. And for the first time, very slightly, the thought enters my mind, "We could get trapped here."

We walk along, push the exit door, and it comes open. There is definitely a sense of relief. [The exit door leads into the lobby of the neighboring building at 100 Church Street.] I look outside, and I don't know if we've gone from bad to worse. The outside is horrendous. I can't see anybody outside yet.

KERIK: The revolving door turns, and this guy walks in. He is solid white, and his eyes are bleeding. We're looking at him, [thinking] Holy Christ. And as I get closer to him, [I realize] it's one of my deputy commissioners, Tibor Kerekes. I've known him forever.

GIULIANI: Tibor was on my security detail. He is a black belt, one of the toughest men you'll ever meet. His clothes are white except for blood. He looks exhausted and beaten. I have never seen Tibor like that. He is shaking. He says, "It's terrible out there. Terrible." We have to sit him down and relax him.

KERIK: Tibor tells me that when the building fell, he ducked into an insert in [a neighboring building], and it fell around him. If he'd been four feet away, he'd have been dead. That's when it really hits home.

CARBONETTI: There is a debate. Some people say, "Let's stay here until it clears." The mayor doesn't want any part of that. He is for getting out. The cops keep saying, "Let's find out what's going on before we leave." He says, "No, let's go."

GIULIANI: We need to communicate, and we have to find a place to re-establish city government. I am also thinking that if I have to die, I'd rather die outside than get trapped in a building.

At this point, I do not have a picture in my mind of the building coming down. I do not know what it means. I say to Sunny [Mindel], have the research office find out how many people died at Pearl Harbor. One of my first thoughts is that this could turn out to be worse.

There are some press outside. I grab [Andrew] Kirtzman [a reporter for NY1, a local cable-news station] by the arm and say, "We're taking you with us." Some of them look a little stunned. I begin holding an ad-hoc walking press conference in which I tell people to remain calm and go straight north.

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