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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JUDITH NATHAN: I receive a phone call telling me to go to the police academy. I am very anxious, to say the least. As we're driving, there is one sight I will never forget. A group of people at a red light in midtown have gathered around a large boom box-type radio. It's a cross-section of New York--teenagers, business people, elderly women. And the radio is so loud. I can hear the mayor's voice. I hear him telling people to go north. And I also hear that his voice is extremely calm. It reminds me of my grandmother telling me that everyone would gather around the radio and listen to the Voice of America. It is apparent that the mayor has already become that.

The mayor has recently battled cancer--we battled that together. And on the way down, I think to myself, he has to be O.K. He cannot have come through this to have anything else happen to him.

SHEIRER, at the police academy: By 4 p.m. we are up and operating. I make the library into a small emergency- operations center and get Verizon to install additional hard lines. All the agencies start coming there--30 or 35 agencies. Everybody you need to make any decision is there.

KERIK: It is perfect. Plenty of room. I say, "Under no circumstances can anybody know where this building is."

NATHAN: There are any number of people who of course need the mayor to make an immediate decision. I literally mean they are standing in line waiting to talk to him. The more aggressive are cutting in line--"Just one quick thing, Mayor." One of his most incredible traits--I've said this to him for years--is the ability to focus 110% on whatever he is doing. Even in this situation, he looks the person in the eye, and he listens to exactly what they are saying.

At the academy, the mayor continues to get reports that friends and colleagues of his have perished--including Barbara Olson, the wife of U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson and an old friend of Giuliani's.

CARBONETTI: The rest of the day, when you see someone who could have been inside, you just hug 'em. You are so happy to see them. There are tears in your eyes.

That afternoon Giuliani leaves the academy to visit Bellevue and St. Vincent's hospitals.

GIULIANI: It is hard to visualize that there will be virtually no survivors [rescued] from the buildings themselves. Whatever survivors there are are the ones who get to the hospital the first day.

KERIK, at the hospital: He is almost like God. People are coming up to him crying, thanking him for being there. All they want to do is make him say it's gonna be O.K. And that's exactly what he does.

NATHAN: Someone comes up to him and says, "They're telling me they don't need my blood. What should I do?" He puts his arms around him and says, "You should wait, and you should give blood, if that's what you want to do."

Giuliani returns to the attack site once that afternoon and three times at night.

NATHAN: When we get in the van, alone, he expresses over and over again his absolute horror that human beings could do this to other human beings.

KERIK: Going to ground zero that night is like going to hell. I remember pulling up five blocks away. Everything is on fire. Rudy and I say nothing. There is nothing to say.

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