Giuliani Only At Ground Zero For 29 Hours
As Rudolph W. Giuliani campaigns around the country highlighting his stewardship of New York City after the Sept. 11 attacks, he is widely hailed for bringing order to a traumatized city. But he has also raised the hackles of rescue and recovery workers by likening his experience to theirs.
On at least three occasions, in responding to accusations that the city failed to adequately protect the health of workers in the wreckage, he has boasted that he faced comparable risks himself. In one appearance he declared that he had been in the ruins “as often, if not more” than the cleanup workers who logged hundreds of hours in the smoldering pile.
Another time he brushed aside safety claims by asserting that his long hours at the site had left him susceptible to “every health consequence that people have suffered.”
So, how much time did Mayor Giuliani spend at ground zero?
A complete record of Mr. Giuliani’s exposure to the site is not available for the chaotic six days after the attack, when he was a frequent visitor. But an exhaustively detailed account from his mayoral archive, revised after the events to account for last-minute changes on scheduled stops, does exist for the period of Sept. 17 to Dec. 16, 2001. It shows he was there for a total of 29 hours in those three months, often for short periods or to visit locations adjacent to the rubble. In that same period, many rescue and recovery workers put in daily 12-hour shifts.
“I think Mayor Giuliani did a fine job as mayor during probably the most difficult time in American history, especially in New York history,” said Michael J. Palladino, president of the Detectives’ Endowment Association of New York City. “Having said that, it’s unfair for him to characterize himself as being in the same position as the first responders.”
Mr. Palladino said many of his members logged 30 hours in the first two days after the attacks, and most averaged more than 400 hours at ground zero and in the debris pile at the Staten Island landfill. They are among thousands who claim long-term health damage from the exposure.
The details of those weeks are important for Mr. Giuliani’s campaign as he seeks to win the Republican nomination for president. His performance in those harrowing months after the attacks has become the main pillar of his case to become the next commander in chief, and something he reminds voters of frequently in debates and speeches.
The logs illuminate in minute detail what it was like to be mayor of a damaged city seeking to regain its footing after the attacks. The more than 600 pages include unscheduled stops and time blocked out for events with his children.
The 29 hours Mr. Giuliani spent at ground zero involved 41 appearances, mostly to give tours to other officials and foreign dignitaries. Many entries include meetings away from the site before the tour. For instance, the schedule included 30 minutes on Nov. 15, 2001, for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, but Mr. Putin’s tour of ground zero was widely reported to have lasted 13 minutes.
Asked to reconcile what the records show with Mr. Giuliani’s public comments about the extent of his exposure to the site, his campaign provided a written statement from Joseph J. Lhota, a former deputy mayor.
“Hundreds of thousands of people around the country and the world saw Rudy Giuliani’s steadfast and determined leadership firsthand at a time when we needed it most,” the statement said. “In the days surrounding September 11th, the safety and health of all those involved in the search and recovery efforts was Mayor Giuliani’s No. 1 one priority. Make no mistake, it is the very same concern Mayor Giuliani continues to express today when it comes to all those who have made tremendous sacrifices at ground zero.”
The months after the attack have emerged as the focus of a contentious battle over the health effects of the cleanup, with workers at the site saying that their long-term exposure to toxins there caused serious illnesses, and that the Giuliani administration failed to recognize the risks in pushing for a speedy cleanup.
The firefighters’ union has also taken umbrage at Mr. Giuliani’s rhetorical claims of being “one of them.”
John J. McDonnell, a battalion chief and president of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association in New York, said many of his members worked weeks of consecutive 12-hour shifts on the rubble pile, interrupted only by nights sleeping on the floor of a nearby church.
It was in the context of the debate over health effects at ground zero that Mr. Giuliani said he spent at least as much time at the site as most of the rescue and recovery workers.
“I was at ground zero as often, if not more, than most of the workers,” Mr. Giuliani said last week in Cincinnati. “I was there working with them. I was there guiding things. I was there bringing people there. But I was exposed to exactly the same things they were exposed to. So in that sense, I’m one of them.”
The next day, in an interview with Mike Gallagher, a talk show host, he expressed regret for the tone of his remarks, but reiterated the substance of them.
“I wasn’t trying to suggest a competition of any kind, which is the way it came across,” Mr. Giuliani said. “You know, what I was saying was, ‘I’m there with you.’ Gosh almighty, I was there often enough, even though they were there, people there more and people there less, but I was there often enough so that every health consequence that people have suffered, I could also be suffering.”
And in September 2006, The Associated Press quoted him as saying of ground zero, “I spent as much time here as anyone,” and then adding, “I was here five, six times a day for four months. I kind of thought of it as living here.”
A sample by Mount Sinai Medical Center of 1,138 participants in its study of health problems among rescue, recovery and debris removal workers found that they had spent a median of 962 hours at the World Trade Center site, or the equivalent of about 120 eight-hour days.
The days after the attack for which no detailed records exist were when the dust from smoldering rubble was its thickest, and were also the most dangerous for exposure. Mr. Giuliani was engulfed in the smoke and debris from the collapsing towers the day of the attacks, and escorted President Bush to the site three days later.
The schedules, beginning Sept. 17, show a mayor wrestling with a crushing burden of events.
On Thursday, Sept. 20, for example, he gave three nationally televised interviews before his daily 8 a.m. staff meeting at the command center on Pier 92. At 9:15 a.m., he presided over the opening of Nasdaq trading at Times Square. At 11 a.m., he led a United States Senate delegation on a tour of ground zero, followed that afternoon by a news conference and meetings with Muhammad Ali, Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain and another staff meeting. At 5:30 p.m., he left for Washington to attend President Bush’s address to Congress and returned to La Guardia Airport at midnight.
Alan I. Abramowitz, a political science professor at Emory University who specializes in voter behavior, said the Giuliani campaign’s focus on his Sept. 11 record has raised the stakes for any mischaracterization of his actions during that period.
“Its sort of like John Kerry making his war heroism a central focus,” Mr. Abramowitz said, “which may have contributed to the attention that was given to the swift boat veterans’ attacks on him.”
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