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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VON ESSEN: We are kind of like pied pipers, you know, shooing everybody north. He is the perfect guy for it. In the midst of being on the phone trying to talk to the White House, he's telling civilians, "Keep walking north!" I remember him grabbing a few people, saying, "Careful, take it easy, just keep walking!" I keep thinking about how many guys I am gonna lose.

The group heads for the Tribeca Grand, a boutique hotel less than a mile north of the Trade Center.

RICHARD SHEIRER, director, mayor's Office of Emergency Management: As we're walking, you hear a plane, and that's the thing that sticks in my mind. Everyone looks up. And all of a sudden someone yells, "It's ours." And it is the greatest thing to see a U.S. Navy jet fly over.

GIULIANI: Just about that time, the second building comes down. As you look south, you see big clouds of smoke traveling through the canyons.

Giuliani and his aides break into a run, chased by the rush of debris snaking through lower Manhattan. When they arrive at the Tribeca Grand, the eight-story atrium lobby is big enough for them to work in, but there is a problem.

KERIK: The entire ceiling is glass. I don't want to see the sky right now.

GIULIANI: Without even talking to each other, we walk through and exit. The entire city government marches through the lobby followed by the press. I say, "We're gonna have to find someplace else."

Von Essen recommends Engine Company 24's firehouse off Houston Street, just a few blocks away. But when the entourage arrives, the door is locked.

GIULIANI: One of the guys grabs an oxygen tank and wants to throw it through the glass. We stop him. Then he jimmies the door. We get in and get right on the phone. At that point, we hold an actual press conference. I talk to the Governor; he says, "We couldn't find you for a while." And I talk to NY1 on the telephone and get back in touch with the White House. Then I call to make sure my family is O.K. [Earlier, Giuliani has asked Kerik to have Gracie Mansion evacuated and make sure Giuliani's children do not return to the city from school.] Knowing the tension that goes on, I want to get Donna [Hanover, his wife] on the phone and tell her directly. I also call Judith [Nathan, his companion] to make sure she is O.K.

SHEIRER: We're there for 45 minutes. That's where we learn that Bill Feehan and Pete Ganci have been killed. Feehan and Ganci are the most experienced people in the world. They are the [fire department's] institutional memory.

Desperate for space and phone lines, Giuliani and his throng of commissioners and aides move around noon to the police academy, on East 20th Street, where they will remain for the next three days.

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