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Giuliani, New York Entered New Territory on 9/11

Aired September 11, 2002 - 05:50   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: September 11, 2001 was supposed to be an easy day for Rudy Giuliani. But the attack on the World Trade Center changed that and changed the nation.
CNN's Deborah Feyerick looks back at how Giuliani lived that awful day.


DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Mayor Rudy Giuliani was wrapping up a breakfast meeting in a midtown hotel when the call came.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a major and very serious situation under way in New York City this morning.

FEYERICK: It was just after 8:45 in the morning. Giuliani raced to the World Trade Center.

MAYOR RUDY GIULIANI (R), NEW YORK CITY: There were doctors and nurses already out on the street ready to receive what we knew would be wounded and injured people.

FEYERICK: In the shadow of the towers, Giuliani's state-of-the- art command center. Designed for such a tragedy, it was useless. Everyone was being evacuated. Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik was ordering other landmark skyscrapers evacuated, as well.

BERNARD KERIK, FORMER NEW YORK CITY POLICE COMMISSIONER: The mayor grabbed me by the arm and I remember what he said. He said something to me like, you know, we're in uncharted territory. You know, this is something that, you know, we've never experienced before.

GIULIANI: We saw the World Trade Center in flames, a big gaping hole all the way on the top of it. We could see people jumping from the top of the building.

FEYERICK: And then the unthinkable that changed a plane crash into an act of war.

GIULIANI: I was outside watching it when the second plane hit.

FEYERICK: The mayor needed to talk to the White House. Cell phone signals were down, so the mayor and his team went into a nearby office building to find a hard line. KERIK: Just as they were about ready to connect the mayor with the vice president, the building started to shake. It was sort of like a, it felt like a freight train was coming through the building. Somebody slammed open the doors and yelled to get down. And then all the windows started to shatter and we started running toward the other side of the building. We didn't know a plane had hit the building.

FEYERICK: The South Tower was the first to collapse, less than an hour after being hit.

GIULIANI: And we were trapped in the building for maybe 10 or 15 minutes, trying to get out different exits. And we finally went through a basement.

KERIK: The air was solid white and there was no sound. There was no more sirens. There was no voices. There was no nothing.

FEYERICK: Covered in dust, the mayor's fire commissioner, Tom von Essen, at the door when Giuliani emerged.

TOM VON ESSEN, NEW YORK FIRE COMMISSIONER: He wanted to know how many people were in, how many of my guys were in the building and I said depending on how much of that building fell that we'd have hundreds of people in that building at that point, because they had no warning at all. That was, it fell so quickly.

FEYERICK: Together, the mayor and his top advisers walked north, passing city hall, unsure where they'd be safe.

GIULIANI: All right, well, then let's get, let's go north then.

FEYERICK (on camera): Did he turn to you and ever say are we going to live through this?

KERIK: I was obligated, as the police commissioner, to make sure that the mayor was safe. He's obligated himself to make sure he stays alive.

FEYERICK (voice-over): America was under attack and no one knew how many targets there might be.

GIULIANI: All that we know right now is that two airplanes struck the two large towers of the World Trade Center. We spoke to the White House. There also apparently was an attack on the Pentagon. We asked that the air space around the City of New York be sealed by military aircraft.

FEYERICK: New York City's airports, bridges and tunnels were shut down.

VON ESSEN: And he knew at that point we had an unbelievable tragedy. He knew that this was not a New York City tragedy, this was an act of war and we're in the middle of it.

GIULIANI: All of the buildings in southern Manhattan have to be evacuated. We're evacuating them now. FEYERICK: After several aborted attempts to set up command operations at small firehouses, Giuliani arrived at the larger police academy, a mile from the Trade Center. It was 2:30 in the afternoon, time to calm a frightened city, a stunned nation.

GIULIANI: Today is obviously one of the most difficult days in the history of the city and the country. The tragedy that we're all undergoing right now is something that we've had nightmares about.

FEYERICK (on camera): Those with the mayor, you, the fire commissioner, who joined up with you afterwards, you all knew pretty quickly that there would be few survivors. But at the first press conference, that wasn't necessarily the message that you gave people.

KERIK: We didn't want to fade their hopes. We didn't want to fade the hopes of the families. And we actually believed that in some areas there could be voids where some of the people may have still been living. And we tried to remain as optimistic as possible.

GIULIANI: There are over 1,000 rescue workers, probably about 2,000, that are deployed trying to get into the buildings, trying to find people, trying to search for people.

FEYERICK: That afternoon, Giuliani visited several local hospitals, updating New Yorkers.

GIULIANI: The number of casualties will be more than any of us can bear ultimately.

FEYERICK: Signing a state of emergency, closing southern Manhattan.

GIULIANI: Anyone trying to violate the order will be arrested.

FEYERICK: And returning to the burning ruins again and again.

GIULIANI: The damage is terrible. People are doing everything that they can to rescue as many people as possible and this is going to be a long-term effort. So I just wanted to make sure that everything is here that could be here and it is. So I just pray to god that we can save a few people.

FEYERICK: Deborah Feyerick, CNN, New York.





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