You can't walk the sidewalks of New York without thinking of what Rudy said and did when it counted. It's a cliche that he wasn't much of a mayor on Sept. 10, but became bigger than life a day later. That's neither fair nor accurate. He was ridiculed for attention to early quality of life issues, but he got rid of the squeegee men who intimidated every driver who was stopped at a red light and he eliminated the graffiti and the trash that had made Gotham a garbage can. He cut crime. He knew the importance of taking pride in the neighborhood and in the city, and restored joy in the life of New York. He was a natural street fighter, and he made life miserable for the thugs who had made life miserable for everybody else.
Hillary, on the other hand, parachuted into New York from Washington. She grew up in a comfortable suburb in the Midwest and spent her young adulthood as the governor's wife in Arkansas. Rudy grew up in Brooklyn, grounded in strong ethnic roots, and couldn't change the way he talks if he wanted to. Neither can Hillary, either, despite her laughable attempts to sound Southern when she campaigns in black churches. (She didn't listen carefully in Arkansas.)
There's an optimism in New York these days to match the promise of a new spring, a legacy of the way Rudy Giuliani changed the way New Yorkers think about their city. Visitors still stream to Ground Zero to watch in awe as monster machines work on a new Freedom Tower. Three huge pieces of sculpture by Frank Stella have been lifted to place on the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art and welded into swooping architectural shapes, juxtaposed against the New York skyline. One piece is called "memantra," prayer or incantation in Balinese. Stella celebrates man's ability to build rather than destroy. In the museum downstairs, an exhibit of Greek and Roman art demonstrates how classical beauty can emerge from civil order.
I returned to my window downtown at the end of the day to look again at the empty space where the Twin Towers once soared above the streets. A bird was sitting on a nest, protecting her two eggs, an investment in the future. Hope springs eternal.
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