Rudy Giuliani Recalls What He Told President Bush Following 9/11 Attacks

September 11, 2019 Updated: September 11, 2019

Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor, revealed what was going through his head when the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks unfolded.

“The anger was tremendous,” he told Fox News on Sept. 11, 2019. “When I saw President Bush for the first time and he got off the helicopter… he greeted the governor and came up to me… He says to me ‘Rudy, what can I do?’ I said when you get bin Laden let me kill him, or I might have said execute him.”

“I think I was thinking as a lawyer,” Giuliani explained. “I thought there’d be capital punishment and I could try the case. I had done that for two Nazis. I only had two capital cases in my career and both of them were Nazis. One had killed 7,000 people. Another had killed 12,000 people—[a] capital case is easy when it’s like that.”

In the recent interview, the former Republican mayor shared a story of a senior citizen in the World Trade Center who allowed young people to go down an elevator instead of him because he felt younger people should go first.

A firefighter breaks down after the World Trade Center buildings collapsed Sept. 11, 2001, after two hijacked airplanes slammed into the twin towers in a terrorist attack that killed some 3,000 people. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

“I can give you 20 other stories like that,” he said. “An elderly man—people are getting on the elevator and he says No, no, no.’ He looks at them and he says to about 40 people on the elevator… ‘No, I’ve already lived my life. You’re all younger.’ And he lets the elevator close and then the building blows.”

Giuliani said that the 9/11 attacks, while devastating, showed that Americans could be united.

“Every year I go there and see all the families and the names,” Giuliani said. “It’s the saddest day and it’s the happiest day because there was so much bravery. America was at its best for weeks after. You go back and you say now, I wish we could recapture half of that.”

September 11 Retrospective
Smoke pours from the twin towers of the World Trade Center after they were hit by two hijacked airliners in a terrorist attack in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001. (Robert Giroux/Getty Images)

Meanwhile, in New York City, A crowd of victims’ relatives assembled at Ground Zero, where the observance began with a moment of silence and tolling bells at 8:46 a.m. That’s when a hijacked plane slammed into the World Trade Center’s north tower, The Associated Press reported.

“As long as the city will gift us this moment, I will be here,” Margie Miller said at the ground zero ceremony, which she attends every year. She lost her husband, Joel. “Because I feel like if we don’t come, they don’t need to do it. And I want people to remember,” said Miller, of Baldwin, on Long Island. After so many years of anniversaries, she has come to know other victims’ relatives, and to appreciate being with them.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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