On September 11, 2001, a series of four terrorist attacks took place as airplanes were hijacked by members of al-Qaeda. The first target was the North tower of the World Trade Center. The North tower was hit by an American Airlines plane at 8:46 AM. The second target was the South tower of the World Trade Center. The South tower was hit by a United Airlines plane at 9:03 AM. A third American airlines plane hit the Pentagon in Virginia, and the fourth flight was flown towards Washington DC, but did not hit its intended target and crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. 

The sight of the World Trade Center, also known as the Twin Towers, collapsing and on fire replayed constantly on news stations and coverage was given on all channels, as well as radio stations. The images of first responders, World Trade Center, and Lower Manhattan residents shocked the world as many were covered in dust and visually in distress. The President of the United States was George W. Bush and New York City’s Mayor was Rudolph Giuliani. In the aftermath of September 11, 2001’s attacks on the World Trade Center, Giuliani’s public image saw a drastic change.

In 2000, Giuliani’s approval rating was at its lowest ever according to a Quinnipiac College Poll:

Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s approval rating among city voters has dropped precipitously during the past two years, and a poll released Wednesday shows the mayor’s rating is now at the lowest level ever. A new Quinnipiac College Poll shows that just 37 percent of city voters approve of Giuliani’s performance while 57 percent disapprove and six percent are undecided. Only a bare majority of 51 percent approve of his handling of crime and just 31 percent agree with his performance on education.”


Almost a week after the attacks, Giuliani attended a prayer service at the Yankees Stadium to mourn the thousands of people reported missing or killed at World Trade Center. Oprah Winfrey even coined Giuliani “America’s Mayor,” at the service. 

The audience cheered wildly for Domingo, but saved its biggest applause for Mayor Rudy Giuliani, whom [Oprah] Winfrey introduced as the “man of the hour” and “America’s mayor.


Six weeks after the attacks, Giuliani’s approval rating shot up to 79 percent. Giuliani was named TIME’s Person of the Year 2001. The article was titled, “Mayor of the World.” The article gushed about Giuliani’s leadership:

With the President out of sight for most of that day, Giuliani became the voice of America. Every time he spoke, millions of people felt a little better. His words were full of grief and iron, inspiring New York to inspire the nation. “Tomorrow New York is going to be here,” he said. “And we’re going to rebuild, and we’re going to be stronger than we were before…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.”


The bipartisan praise of Rudy Giuliani poured in during the aftermath of the World Trade Center terrorist attacks. What’s not spoken about is that the measure of Giuliani’s praise poured in due to the several “feel good” patriotic moments that Giuliani was a part of. Giuliani’s several speeches and public appearances clouded the judgement of people that praised him. Giuliani’s actual handling of September 11 terrorist attacks on World Trade Center devastated many survivors and the families of victims. As there is much to expand on about Giuliani’s material efforts in regards to Ground Zero, we will touch on just a few.

  1. Giuliani downplayed the safety of the air quality in Ground Zero

Not too long after the WTC attacks, Giuliani made public appearances speaking about the air quality near Ground Zero.

There is a lot of questions about the air quality because there are at times in downtown Manhattan and then sometimes even further beyond that, a very strong odor. The odor is really just from the fire and the smoke that continues to go on. It is monitored constantly and is not in any way dangerous. It is well below any level of problems and any number of ways in which you test it.

Radio WNYC, September 30, 2001

Let’s do the Daily News first. The Daily News today had a story about how the zone is a “toxic danger.” And the reality is that although obviously very, very close to where the work is being done there are dangers and risks, the reality is far different than the way the article described it.”

Radio WNYC, October 2001

Soon enough, the world would learn about the respiratory illnesses and other health effects from medical professionals, Ground Zero clean-up workers, residents of Lower Manhattan and first responders that survived the attacks. The toxic dust from the Twin Towers attacks consisted of abnormal levels of asbestos and carcinogens. First responders, residents of Lower Manhattan, survivors, and workers involved in the clean up were the main people exposed to the toxic dust, placing them at risk of illnesses. Lung cancer, kidney cancer, leukemia, mesothelioma, lymphoma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are most common amongst those exposed to the toxic dust. 

Dr. Brian W. Christman, M.D. was interviewed by Lung.org in 2016 and spoke about the adverse effects of the toxic dust on survivors and first responders:

The dangerous inhalants included both pulverized alkaline dust from fragmented building materials and chemical products from explosions and burning of building materials. Alkaline is the opposite of acidic, but can be just as harmful. The alkaline silica dust deposited in small airways causing inflammation, scarring and narrowing. When the toxic dust deposited in the nose and sinuses, similar inflammation developed. The symptoms experienced were generally worse in those with pre-existing illnesses like allergic rhinitis (“hay fever”), chronic sinusitis, asthma, etc.”


  1. Giuliani removed control of recovery and clean up of Ground Zero from large governmental agencies.

Giuliani denounced the role of experienced federal agencies such as the US Army Corps of Engineers, Department of Occupational Safety And Health Administration, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency in efforts of recovery and clean up. The relatively unknown Department of Design and Construction was left in charge of recovery, alongside Giuliani and his administration. Giuliani prioritized a speedy cleanup in efforts to have New York City back to work and instill “normalcy” to the city and country, as he reopened the New York Stock Exchange just 7 days after the WTC attacks on September 17, 2001. 

Families of WTC workers and first responders have not received closure as they were not able to recover the remains of their loved ones within the rubble and debris at Ground Zero. Many relatives of the victims demanded that construction be stopped to focus efforts on recovery of human remains. 

FDNY firefighters and other department members were disgraced by Mayor Giuliani insinuating that he spent as much time as recovery workers at the site and faced the same risks as them. “FDNY batallion chief Jim Riches, who spent eight months at Ground Zero looking for the remains of his firefighter son and others who died, said Giuliani “would pass through for five minutes, so for him to say he was down there as much as the first responders is a disgrace.”


  1.  Giuliani had Congress limit the City’s payout for 9/11 lawsuits to only $350 million.  

Journalist Anthony DePalma covered Giuliani’s response and work in regards to 9/11. DePalma wrote about Giuliani’s need to cap the payout to limit the city’s liability in regards to victims of the terrorist attacks:

The warning did not lead to a crackdown on workers without respirators. Rather, a month later, Mr. Giuliani wrote to members of the city’s Congressional delegation urging passage of a bill that capped the city’s liability at $350 million. And two years after Mr. Giuliani left office, FEMA appropriated $1 billion for a special insurance company to defend the city against 9/11 lawsuits.


In the same article, DePalma reveals that “FEMA appropriated $1 billion for a special insurance company to defend the city against 9/11 lawsuits.”

What a way to wash their hands clean.

In 2002, New York City’s then-comptroller, William J Thompson reported about the city’s claim $350 million claim liability:

As of August 6, 2002, approximately 1,464 claims amounting to $8.2 billion have been filed. At this time, the City’s Law Department has indicated that the City’s liability for WTC claims is most likely to be no higher than the $350 million being provided by the Federal Government through an act of Congress.37  As such, the City’s budget makes no provisions for additional expenditures that could arise from WTC related claims.

Click to access impact-9-11-year-later.pdf

In 2021, remains of victims are still discovered at Ground Zero, while many families still have not received closure. As 3,000 people lost their lives, the ones who survived are still plagued by chronic health issues, such as cancer and other respiratory illnesses. 20 years later, people still uphold and express admiration for Giuliani’s “supposed” positive leadership. Families of victims, first responders, especially FDNY, are still scorned by the lack of preparation, care, and blunders made by Giuliani and his administration. How do we measure leaders in the event of crises? Do we value “feel good” moments over actual tactfulness, care, and responses? Giuliani’s legacy as Mayor of New York City should remain in question.

There’s no doubt about Giuliani using the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center to opportunistically fix his public perception. His actions in response to the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, contradicted his newly found praise.

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