Oprah: So you expected more attacks?
Rudy: Absolutely. I had no reason to assume there would only be two planes. Why not three or four or five?
Oprah: That's true. I know you say you've cried—but have you really grieved?
Rudy: No, I haven't had the time yet. But being needed by people has helped me. And I know that no matter how much I've lost, these families have lost more. I think about my fire commissioner, who lost three quarters of his best friends.
Oprah: Can you take in all that loss, or are there different levels of letting it in?
Rudy: You can't. You just have to let whatever feelings you have come out and do the best you can to process it all. Every once in a while I remind myself and the people around me that we're in completely uncharted territory.
Oprah: You can't fake having great character during times like this.
Rudy: No one can spin his or her way through this—you will spin into insanity. You have to react to it, feel it, and be honest.
Oprah: Are you the leader you imagined yourself to be in this crisis?
Rudy: No, because I never imagined having to deal with this. But I've found myself relying on lessons my parents taught me years ago. My father used to say to me, "If you're in a crisis and everyone is getting very emotional, you've got to become calmer. That's the only way to get yourself through it." [On September 11] I remember saying to myself, I have to be very, very calm—because sometimes I can be very excitable. I am Italian, after all! You should see me at a baseball game—I go nuts when the umpire makes a bad call.
Oprah: What is your first thought when crisis hits?
Rudy: To communicate—to get on television and radio and talk to people. To give them practical ways to get through this. In fact, [when I got caught in the nearby building] I'd been trying to tell people to come down the stairways and to tell them how to evacuate.
Oprah: From day one, we heard you say we should get back to normal, but a few weeks later the FBI sent out a warning of an imminent terrorist attack. What's the balance between encouraging people to move on with their lives and telling them the whole truth about their safety?
Rudy: Here's how I look at it: You face a risk by being alive in general. Maybe this comes from having been at Ground Zero. If the building fell one way, you could be dead, and if it fell another way, you're alive. We don't have real control over death. You could die of a heart attack, a building could fall on you, you could be in an accident, you could have a fatal disease. So how should you conduct your life? You just go ahead and live, taking reasonable precautions—like handling the mail more carefully.
We Hear You!