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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

AMERICA REBUILDS: Interview With Hillary Clinton

Aired September 11, 2003 - 08:11   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Back here live at ground zero, an extraordinary scene again taking place on the western edge of ground zero. Already hundreds of family members, quite possibly in the thousands, are already starting to line up along the street to pay their respects today.
With me now, the junior senator from the State of New York, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.

How are you today?

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: I'm all right, Bill.

You know, this is a hard day for so many people who lost loved ones, and I think for all New Yorkers who either knew somebody or have gotten to know a family member or another person directly affected, as I have.

HEMMER: What do you think, what comes to mind when you look at the images on the street 10 floors below where we're standing?

CLINTON: Oh, courage, resilience, an enormous amount of grace. You know, when I look out at this site, I think of the first time I saw it on September the 12th, when I helicoptered in from LaGuardia in order to meet the governor and the mayor to survey the horrors. And it was hard at that moment to ever think the fires would go out or that we might not be attacked immediately again.

So, in some respects today, which is a day of commemoration and looking back, is also a day of taking stock of how far we've come, but what else we have to do ahead of us.

HEMMER: When it comes to doing things ahead of us here in New York City, as a representative for the state and the people who live here, there's been a lot of criticism right now in going forward with this memorial versus the construction.

Where do you stand right now on where that should be focused?

CLINTON: I've always thought that the memorial should be the centerpiece and the most important part of whatever is rebuilt. I think it's imperative that not only to honor those we lost, but to symbolize the courage and resilience of the people of this country. You know, I'm hoping and trusting that the process which has been put in place by the governor that has created different committees to make these decisions will be focused on doing that. HEMMER: There is construction slated for an enormous tower to begin this summer.

Are you OK with that?

CLINTON: You know, I think you have to look at the total design. I'm not against any one piece of it as long as the overall effect is that the memorial and the meaning of this site is paramount.

HEMMER: Are you satisfied with the amount of money that's come into this city? There were a lot of promises a few years ago, two years, to be a little bit more exact than that. And a large portion of that has come in, but not completely.

CLINTON: But it's in the pipeline. I think that we've learned a lot about how to deal with such an unprecedented disaster. I'm very grateful for the financial help that we've received from the Congress and the administration. My concerns are mostly around whether or not we have really done all we need to do to take care of people. And I've got some unfinished business there.

I'm also concerned about the homeland security aspects of this. I don't think that anywhere in the country, but particularly here in New York, we've provided enough federal resources for our firefighters, our police officers, our EMTs. You know, we have so many unmet needs when it comes to being prepared and ready in case something terrible happens again.

HEMMER: Is it possible, though, to ever be 100 percent?

CLINTON: No, but I want to go to bed at night knowing that we've done everything humanly possible. I don't want to go to bed saying, you know, we've been talking for two years now about how our borders need to be safer. You know, we're closing fire stations in New York City, a place where the firefighters lost so many hundreds of their, you know, fellow firefighters. It's not right.

I mean I don't understand how we can go from two years ago when we were praising our firefighters, when we're cutting our force, when we're cutting back the federal support for our NYPD and other law enforcement around the country. That doesn't make any sense to me.

So, no, there's nothing in life that's a hundred percent. And you can look at other places in the world, like Israel, that have certainly been on the front lines in the fight against terrorism for decades. There's no way to plug every hole and prevent every suicidal lunatic from coming into your borders. But let's do everything we possibly can. And I'm not yet convinced we have.

HEMMER: Good luck today.

CLINTON: Thanks.

HEMMER: And I know you're spending a lot of time with the families today and best of luck with that.

CLINTON: Thanks. It's hard. But, you know, they're brave and courageous people and...

HEMMER: And inspiring, don't you think?

CLINTON: Very much inspiring.

HEMMER: I find it unfortunately year to year now down here.

CLINTON: That's right.

HEMMER: Thank you, Senator.

CLINTON: Thank you, Bill.

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