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The Center of the World: New York, A Documentary Film | Clip

Ed Koch, Former NYC Mayor

Three-term mayor of New York City from 1978 to 1989, Ed Koch is now a political columnist, partner in a law firm, media commentator and author. Producer Ric Burns interviewed him during the making of New York: The Center of the World.


On the Memorial Day a year later, Mayor Bloomberg asked a number of people — and I was privileged and honored to be asked to be one of them. Colin Powell was there, many others — to read some of the names of those who had been killed at the World Trade Center. And while we were waiting to go out and do that, we were sitting under a tent, and each reader was accompanied by a second reader — really the first reader — who was a member of the surviving family, you know. And while we were waiting, I talked with one of these people who was going to read. And he told me this story.

He said, "I was in Wisconsin. My daughter, 23 years old, was working in Wisconsin, and she was asked by her company to come in. They wanted to talk to her about a new job in New York City. And when the attack occurred and everybody who was alerted to it obviously turned on the television sets, it was seen all around the country, and as it was happening, I knew," said he. "My daughter was at that very moment in a job interview with her employer in the trade tower, and I went crazy, you know, in pain," and so forth.

As he's telling me this story — I'm reliving it now — I began to cry. He said, "We tried to get a plane, commercial. We couldn't. We tried to get a private plane. We couldn't. And finally we got into New York," — I don't know whether it was a day later or whenever it was. "And we went down to the site. We were taken over by a cop who will never be forgotten by us. He's now a member of our family. And he took us everywhere. We went to 38 places, looking for our daughter. And we knew she was dead."

At that moment, Senator Hillary Clinton — and I'm a good friend, I'd like to think I'm a good friend of hers; I was involved in her campaign — she was one of the readers, and she moved in my direction. She saw me and she motioned me to come over, and I excused myself. And she said, "You look terrible. What's wrong?" I said, "I'm sitting with the father... of a young woman who was killed." And I began to cry again, cry again. And she embraced me, gave me a Kleenex. But it's like a personal, tremendous loss.

And what the father said was, he'll — he was so proud of New York, and appreciative. He said, "I can't tell you how I appreciate what the mayor did." And he said, "As I'm waiting, I went over to someone. I said, 'I can't just sit here. I have to work... I have to do something.' They said, 'Sure.' And they took me by the hand, and they took me over to a group of people, and sort of like everybody parted, and then there was Mayor Giuliani. And I told him I had to work. And he said, 'Sure, you must work.' And he embraced me." He said, "I'll never forget him." Well, I'll never forget him either, and the pain that he went through, and — just incredible. And the strength that he displayed.

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