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Giuliani recalls 'tremendous courage of all those people'

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani  

Editor's Note: CNN Access is a regular feature on providing interviews with newsmakers from around the world.

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani earned the nickname, "Rudy the Rock," for his stalwart leadership after the September 11 terrorist attacks. Giuliani joined CNN anchor Paula Zahn on Monday morning to discuss his memories of that day.

PAULA ZAHN: Six months ago, New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani was in the final months of his eight years in office. He had been a political maverick, his final years marked by a very public divorce, a battle with prostate cancer and a decision not to run against Hillary Clinton for the Senate. But in a matter of moments, Giuliani's place in history was forever secured.

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He narrowly escaped disaster himself that day. His leadership helped calm the chaos, and he became known as America's mayor. And [Monday] morning New York's former mayor, Rudy Giuliani, joins us. Welcome back. Good to see you again, sir.

GIULIANI: Good morning, Paula.

ZAHN: As we reflect on 9/11, what is it that looms large in your mind this morning?

GIULIANI: Well, I think both things do. I keep thinking about all of the horrible losses we encountered -- personal ones, people I knew and loved, and then so many others that I got to know over the course of the four months that I continued to be mayor and now.

And then I always think about, and did from the very beginning, the tremendous courage of all those people, the rescue workers, just the ordinary citizens. They conducted themselves with such bravery that they lifted all of us and set a standard that we had to reach since we were the fortunate ones who got to live, and they died so we could be free.

ZAHN: Describe some of those personal instances of bravery that you witnessed. We have all been so inspired by what we have seen around the clock at Ground Zero.

GIULIANI: I keep thinking about Father Mychal Judge who I passed quickly as I was going to the Police Department command center and he was going toward the Fire Department command center. And I shook his hand, and I asked him to pray for us. I said, "Father, pray for us," because I knew how terrible it was. And he looked at me, smiled and said, "I always do," and then moved on.

And he was the first person that we lost at the World Trade Center. I think about Peter Ganci, who was running the evacuation for the Fire Department. I think about the last conversations I had with him, how calm, how well-analyzed he had the situation. And I think about all the firefighters he was commanding and police officers. And the good job they did saved so many people. So they turned this worst disaster into the greatest rescue effort in the history of the United States.

ZAHN: And I think that even your political foes acknowledged on September 11 that it was your calm that kept the city together. And I wanted to quickly replay a very small part of one of your news conferences in the days following that very dark day. Let's listen [to this video clip]:

GIULIANI [FROM VIDEO CLIP]: The number of casualties will be more than any of us can bear ultimately. And I don't think we want to speculate on the number of casualties. The effort now has to be to save as many people as possible.

ZAHN: What was the challenge of trying to remain as optimistic as you needed to do on a public front and at the same time knowing that hope really was running out at that point?

GIULIANI: I think it was to look in your heart and try to do the best that you could. And to try to be as honest as you could be and as sensitive as you could be, and always hope and pray that you reach the right balance.

But I remember thinking when I first arrived there and I saw the first man who I saw jump from the 100th floor of Tower No. 1, and I leaned over to the police commissioner, Bernie Kerik, and I said, "Bernie, we're on uncharted territories. And we're just gonna have to figure out our response and do the best that we can." And I sort of grabbed his arm for strength. And from then on it really just came from my heart. And I hope I did it right. I tried as hard as I could.

ZAHN: I'm going to close just with a picture of the U.S. flag being erected at Ground Zero, which I know you have described as a personal turning point.

GIULIANI: On that day it was one of the things that lifted my spirit and gave me the sense that we could get through this. That the spirit of America was the same that it had been all throughout the generations and somehow people who live in freedom could handle this.




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