Rudy Giuliani emerged from the smoke of 9/11 as the unquestioned hero of the day: America's Mayor, the father figure we could all rely on to be tough, to be wise, to do the right thing. In that uncertain time, it was a comfort to know that he was on the scene and in control, making the best of a dire situation.
But was he really?
Grand Illusion is the definitive report on Rudy Giuliani's role in 9/11—the true story of what happened that day and the first clear-eyed evaluation of Giuliani's role before, during, and after the disaster.
While the pictures of a soot-covered Giuliani making his way through the streets became very much a part of his personal mythology, they were also a symbol of one of his greatest failures. The mayor's performance, though marked by personal courage and grace under fire, followed two terms in office pursuing an utterly wrongheaded approach to the city's security against terrorism. Turning the mythology on its head, Grand Illusion reveals how Giuliani has revised his own history, casting himself as prescient terror hawk when in fact he ran his administration as if terrorist threats simply did not exist, too distracted by pet projects and turf wars to attend to vital precautions.
Authors Wayne Barrett and Dan Collins also provide the first authoritative view of the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, recounting the triumphs and missteps of the city's efforts to heal itself. With surprising new reporting about the victims, the villains, and the heroes, this is an eye-opening reassessment of one of the pivotal events—and politicians—of our time.
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About the Author
Wayne Barrett is a senior editor at the Village Voice and the author of the bestselling City for Sale.
Dan Collins, a senior producer at CBSNews.com, is a former New York correspondent for U.S. News & World Report and a reporter for the New York Daily News.
Read an Excerpt
Grand IllusionThe Untold Story of Rudy Giuliani and 9/11
By Wayne Barrett
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Wayne Barrett
All right reserved.
The World Trade Center Attached
Fives, a restaurant in Manhattan's Peninsula Hotel, was one of Rudy Giuliani's regular places, and when New York City's mayor arrived there for breakfast on September 11, 2001, his favorite table was waiting for him. It was large, round, and located in a nook beneath a bay window. As always, the tables in front of and behind him were left open. The seat Giuliani selected gave him a view of Fifth Avenue, the entryway, and a good portion of the restaurant itself. Although he didn't like to be disturbed while dining, Giuliani always seemed to have an eye on what was going on around him.
His breakfast companions were Denny Young, a top aide, and a friend, Bill Simon, who was hoping to run for governor of California with Giuliani's endorsement. Entering the restaurant, Giuliani worked the room, smiling and shaking hands before taking a seat at his table. The mayor's security detail split up as he sat down. All modern New York mayors have traveled with a retinue, and Giuliani's concern for physical protection was long-standing, the product of an earlier career spent prosecuting Mafia cases. One bodyguard took up position at the hostess station at thehead of the stairway leading into Fives. The other stood in front of the wall behind the mayor's table.
Zack Zahran, the restaurant manager, watched his celebrity guest as the three men ordered coffee and began discussing Simon's gubernatorial campaign. At around 8:50 A.M., he saw one of Giuliani's bodyguards leave her post near the mayor's table and come forward to whisper in the mayor's ear. Zahran saw no change in Giuliani's expression or sense of emergency in his demeanor. As he recalled it, the mayor chatted with Young and Simon for another minute or so before exiting the same way he arrived--moving through the restaurant for another round of smiles and handshakes.
Denny Young followed his boss. Left behind was Bill Simon. According to a Simon aide, Giuliani told his friend, "A plane hit the World Trade Center. I've got to go," and Simon replied, "All right." In Giuliani's subsequent account of his departure, Simon came out looking more prescient. "Without knowing the enormity of what had happened," the mayor recalled, "Bill said to me, 'God bless you.' "1
Also left behind on the table were three unopened menus. As the day unfolded and images of the crashing towers and a soot and ash-covered Giuliani flashed on TV screens, manager Zahran had the same thought over and over again: "Oh my God, the man didn't have breakfast!"2
It was the beginning of the most important day in many American lives, Rudy Giuliani's included. Later, when the chorus of praise for Giuliani's performance would swell so loud the mayor of New York City began to sound like a combination of Winston Churchill and Spiderman, his political peers began to grumble that he had only done what any responsible elected official would have done in his shoes. Mark Green, the leading Democratic candidate to replace Giuliani in the 2001 election, said as much at the time. "I actually believe that if, God forbid, I had been the mayor during such a calamity, I would have done as well or better than Rudy Giuliani," he said, and was hit with a wave of outrage from New Yorkers who wanted to believe that Giuliani was every bit the unique hero he had seemed that day.
We will never know how Green would have behaved as mayor under any circumstances--he lost the election to Michael Bloomberg that November. But on September 11, no other public figure rose to the occasion the way Giuliani did. It took George W. Bush more than a day to completely digest what was going on and to craft an appropriate response. The president was, of course, operating in a different environment. Bush had trouble getting a full picture of what was happening--the high-tech Air Force One kept losing telephone and television reception.
Giuliani, on the other hand, began to understand that things were very, very bad a few minutes after he left the restaurant. He, Young, and two police bodyguards sped downtown in a Chevrolet Suburban, and as the SUV passed through Greenwich Village, the mayor observed doctors and nurses in operating gowns standing on the street, outside St. Vincent's Hospital. He knew then, he said later, that it "had to be even worse than I thought." And it was getting far more disastrous by the moment. A little more than 16 minutes after the first jet hit the North Tower, a second plane, United Airlines Flight 175, struck the 78th through 84th floors of the South Tower.
Giuliani, whose car was about a mile away from the World Trade Center when Flight 175 hit, saw the explosion but assumed it was coming from the wreck in the first building. "And then I was informed within about 30 seconds that a second plane had hit the World Trade Center," he said. "At that point, we knew there was a terrorist attack going on."
Inside the North Tower of the World Trade Center, above the floors where a jet plane filled with fuel had just crashed, brokers and secretaries and other workers were calling their families worriedly, still sitting at their desks and totally unable to comprehend what was happening to them. Mike Pelletier, a commodities broker who worked on the 105th floor, called his wife, Sophie, in Connecticut. "He just said, 'Soph, an airplane just went through the building. I don't know what we're going to do.' He said he loved me," she recalled later. "And it took me a second to just realize what was happening. I said, 'Oh my God, is there help?' He said, 'We don't know. We don't know. We can't tell.' " Mrs. Pelletier called 9-1-1 and got emergency response in Connecticut, where the operator laughed, unbelieving. There would be no help for those above the impact of either plane, except for 18 people in the South Tower who found a passageway down.
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