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Rudy Giuliani: Americans 'stood their ground'

Rudy Giuliani
Rudy Giuliani

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Rudi Giuliani
September 11 attacks
Acts of terror

NEW YORK (CNN) -- In the hours, days and months after the September 11, 2001, attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was tireless in his efforts to mobilize emergency aid and offer comfort to the residents of his city and the nation.

CNN anchor Bill Hemmer on Thursday spoke with Giuliani on the second anniversary of the terror attacks.

HEMMER: I'm curious to know, a comment you offered a year ago on this day, and I'll quote you, you said, "It was the worst day of my life and maybe it was the greatest day."

What do you mean when you say the greatest day, those attacks of 9/11?

GIULIANI: Because of all of the heroism that it brought about, the spontaneous acts of courage, generosity, decency, the unity that it brought about in the United States. I don't remember the United States ever more united in my lifetime than on the day and in the days following September 11. Political partisanship was put aside and we focused on what was important to us as Americans -- the defense of freedom, the protection of lives, the saving of as many lives as possible.

So I see it as the worst evil perpetrated on our country ... which was challenged by some of the greatest good that we're capable of. And it's something that we have to keep reminding ourselves of, that we are under challenge. We are under challenge by terrorists. But as people who live in freedom, we have the wherewithal to get through this, and we will get through it.

HEMMER: In 2001, you went to 200 funerals. What did you learn then about death and about life?

GIULIANI: I learned how precious it is and how valuable it is and how it can't be taken for granted. I probably learned that, too, when I had prostate cancer about a year earlier than that. And I also learned that...

HEMMER: What did you learn, again, about life two years ago, given the enormous tragedy that enveloped you at that time?

GIULIANI: I learned how valuable it is to us. I mean if you think about it, the people who attacked us put a much lesser value on their own lives and other people's lives than we do. And maybe the mark of our civilization is the importance of human life, how fragile it is, the tremendous contributions individual human beings can make.

And I also saw the power of religion in going to so many masses and other religious services, the power that religion had to create this kind of bravery in these men, who laid down their lives to save other people.

HEMMER: You had very strong comments yesterday, sir, about the memorial process and the rebuilding process, as well. Take me back to your comments yesterday. When you say the city is moving entirely too fast right now on the reconstruction effort, what's wrong with that?

GIULIANI: Oh, I didn't say that they're moving too fast. What I said is that the designs that have been offered, the concept is wrong because the concept emphasizes office buildings, not the significance of the place.

When you see that design, the first thing that should capture you is the importance of what happened there, the memorial aspect of it. And you shouldn't be afraid to devote space to that because it might -- you might sacrifice a little bit of office space.

And it's sort of been inverted. All of the designs have emphasized the office space, not the memorial, the library, the museum. The tremendous amount of respect that should be shown for the final resting place of a couple of thousand people who were never recovered and are buried there at the bedrock. Those are things that future generations...

HEMMER: Yes, I want to...

GIULIANI: ... are going to judge us by.

HEMMER: I want to paraphrase some of your words from yesterday. You asked the question, you said, "Are we forgetting about 9/11 already?"

Do you think that's the case?

GIULIANI: I think some are, yes, sure. You can see it in the fact that some of the political bickering that's going on or attempts to politicize various aspects of it, which would never have happened in the first couple of months after that, where we had tremendous bipartisan unity, where the country came first, not people's political positions or careers.

You know, everybody was waving flags and had flags on and there was this sense of very, very legitimate patriotic feeling about who we were as Americans. You see some of that lessened. And I hope that memorials like this will remind people of the worst attack in the history of the country and how people stood their ground, those firefighters and police officers stood their ground. They didn't retreat.

Because they did that, they saved 8,000, 9,000 people and showed the kind of bravery that our sailors did at Pearl Harbor. And that should give us the strength to unite about dealing with terrorism and dealing with the things that we have to deal with.

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