Register Wednesday | June 19 | 2019

A Man Among Men

"It seems so inappropriate to question the actions of New York on Sept. 11."

This morning before work I watched part of former-Mayor Giuliani's testimony before the September 11 Commission. It just seems so inappropriate to question the actions of this city on that day. If the Commission wanted to investigate "How to Respond Heroically and Properly, with Compassion and Poise, Selflessly and Swiftly in the Event that Two Airplanes Slam into Your Tallest Buildings One Beautiful September Morning Without Warning" then I would welcome the Commission, say go at it. But this idea that we can learn what went wrong that day is insulting. What went wrong probably has more to do with my President's torrential lack of curiosity than anything any single person did or did not do. What New Yorkers survived only through the actions of our first responders and citizens is disproportionate in relation to what could, or even should, have been done. The questions the panel is asking and conclusions they draw are irrelevant in that context. If you want to know what has changed since then, ask Mayor Bloomberg. He will gladly tell you. That's the way New York City works. I guarantee you the Mayor would welcome the chance to show how much better prepared we are in case the unthinkable happens again.

Watching the former Mayor's balding pate, I sat on my couch, choking up, still grateful for what he did for me and this entire city. The sense of hope and resilience he passed to us is, in a very real sense, a debt we owe him. When President Bush uses September 11 as a platform for his re-election campaign (and as an undercurrent of fear that seems to drive most of his foreign policy decisions) he draws a stark contrast between himself and the former Mayor. While Bush was absent from the airwaves for hours and from this city for days, we all turned to Mayor Giuliani. If he were to run for President one day, he could run campaign ads ad nauseum that said, "Hi. I'm Rudy Giuliani. On Sept. 11 [photo of fireman] I was Mayor of New York City. [photo of dust covered cars and debris] It was a terrible time. [photo of firemen lifting the American flag] But no one could have done a better job than me or this city. [photo of Mayor with mask over face walking north] Remember that when you vote. I was Mayor on Sept. 11." Mayor Giuliani could run on that platform and that platform alone. He's kinda earned the right. Sadly, I cannot say I feel the same about my President.

I'll make the next few posts a little more diary, a little less commentary. But hopefully this indicates how personally New Yorkers take that day, how finely stitched into the fabric of this city the experience is. When I was a kid I used to wonder why you could hardly engage in a conversation about the Holocaust without encountering a defensive wall of emotion. September 11 and the Holocaust have very little in common [one was a single, visceral, horrible day; the other was genocide], but the reaction I have to those outside this city who want to talk about it or have opinions about it comes from a similar place, I think. For survivors, this should never be used as a tool of analysis. It is forever off limits. Yes, that makes this a one-sided debate, and it damn well should be.