As 9/11 families jeer, Giuliani defends city

Former New York mayor calls rescue effort heroic

May 20, 2004|By Rudolph Bush | Rudolph Bush,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

NEW YORK - Interrupted repeatedly by jeers from emotional relatives of Sept. 11 victims, former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani offered a defense yesterday of New York City's reaction to the disaster while members of the federal commission investigating the attacks again questioned the response of emergency workers.

Giuliani, the most lionized figure to emerge from the catastrophe, told the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States that firefighters and police who responded to the attacks gave the country "a story of heroism, a story of pride" rather than defeat.

"They saved more lives than anyone had any right to expect," Giuliani said. "Done differently, you would have had much more serious loss of life."

During Giuliani's testimony, victims' family members seated behind the former mayor - many of them parents of fallen firefighters - shouted him down and demanded that he speak to problems with the Motorola radios that firefighters were using on Sept. 11, 2001.

Others in the crowd called Giuliani a liar and held up signs that read "Fiction" as he spoke, claiming that the city has tried to sweep anything that went wrong that day under the carpet.

Commissioners also heard testimony from Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge. Bloomberg noted what he called a woeful lack of federal security funding for the state. Ridge agreed that more funds should be shifted to New York.

As they did Tuesday, commissioners focused on flawed communication systems within the Fire Department and among all of New York's emergency-response agencies.

Commission staffers, who interviewed hundreds of police officers and firefighters, concluded in a report issued yesterday that fire commanders had considerable difficulty communicating with their units, that some off-duty firefighters came to the scene without radios and that some units that arrived at the twin towers were not accounted for.

Bloomberg testified that radio problems within the Fire Department have been solved with new equipment, but commissioners seemed to doubt that assertion, and several witnesses disputed Bloomberg's view.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operated the World Trade Center and was responsible for its security, also had significant communications problems on Sept. 11, commission staff concluded.

The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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