This may be Rudy Giuliani’s finest hour.
From the ashes of the World Trade Center, the mayor of the City of New York has emerged as the embodiment of grace under pressure. His emergence was literal. As debris cascaded from the Twin Towers, Giuliani and several of his top advisers were stuck in a downtown command center where they had been leading the city’s initial emergency response efforts.
“We were trapped in the building for maybe 10 or 15 minutes trying to get out different exits,” Giuliani told reporters. He and his team eventually escaped through the basement of 75 Barclay Street in lower Manhattan.
After wandering through dust- and rubble-filled streets for 10 blocks, Giuliani’s crew found a firehouse with functioning communications gear. Since then he has been on the spot and on camera around the clock, providing the world a reassuring if stern symbol of New York City’s resilience.
Since this disaster began, Giuliani’s tone has been pitch perfect. He denounced the savages behind these attacks with a controlled anger that somehow has escaped the ever-genial President Bush, even in these extraordinary circumstances.
“We will strive now to save as many people as possible and to send a message that the city of New York — and the United States of America — is much stronger than any group of barbaric terrorists,” Giuliani said early on. He added: “I want the people of New York to be an example to the rest of the country and the rest of the world that terrorism can’t stop us.”
Giuliani’s presence at numerous press conferences — usually accompanied by New York Governor George Pataki and Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik — continues to show New Yorkers and Americans alike that someone is firmly in control here despite the smoke and sirens that fill the air.Giuliani also repeatedly has answered reporters’ questions and endeavored to replace rumor and speculation with facts and information.
Finally, the mayor has acted as a low-key cheerleader for New York amid this madness. He has urged residents to return to their normal lives to foil the scoundrels who thought they could sink Gotham’s spirits.
“Show your confidence,” Giuliani said. “Show you’re not afraid. Go to restaurants. Go shopping,” he urged citizens.
Asked if he expected the World Trade Center to be rebuilt, Giuliani predicted that “the skyline will be whole again. But more important,” he added, “the people of New York will be whole again. We’re a very strong people.”
Rudy Giuliani remains a one-man night light amid so much darkness. His performance this week makes it even harder to accept the fact that New Year’s Eve will be this model public servant’s last day on the job.