By Nathan Brockman
In honor of his “leadership and courage” on September 11, 2001, the Episcopal Diocese of New York on May 6 honored former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani with the Fiorello LaGuardia Public Service Award for Valor and Leadership in a Time of Global Crisis. The award was presented at the fifth annual Law Day observance. Evensong was held at St. Paul’s Chapel, which adjoins the trade-center site, and which has served as a sanctuary for ground zero’s workers during their shifts.
While in many circles criticism of former mayor Rudolph Giuliani ebbed entirely after September’s terrorist attacks, the Diocesean event incidentally marked a change in the tide, as a group of protesters sang and shouted in uninhibited protest against a 9-11 icon within yards of ground zero, the city’s most sensitive acreage.
The group was made up of sixteen members of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, Manhattanville, who blamed the former mayor’s administration for “unjust and often brutal policies” affecting minorities and the poor.
Said James G. White, a protest organizer, “Giuliani presided over a reign of terror, dividing people of all races…and failed to deliver jobs at living wages and fair housing for everyone who wanted to work.”
According to Anne Ditzler, a protester, the former mayor was “never a friend of the poor or communities of color.” She was standing firm as an “Episcopalian witness.”
Inside the chapel, however, the protesters were barely audible, heard during the quieter moments of evensong.
In a brief address, Giuliani spoke of a “flood of memories” of St. Paul’s. Before he was mayor, he had often photographed the World Trade Center towers from the churchyard. Of the chapel’s surviving the collapse of the towers, he said, “that would have been enough…but to walk through here gives you a sense we can get through all of this.” The chapel is festooned with bright cards and notes from well-wishers, mostly children, around the country.
The Guild of St. Ives, an association of lawyers and judges, and the Episcopal Diocese of New York, presented their award to Giuliani. General Theological Seminary bestowed their Dean’s Medal, and Trinity Church gave a framed memorial of pictures of St. Paul’s and the twin towers, and a photograph of Giuliani delivering his mayoral farewell speech at the chapel in December of last year.
White and Ditzler went back to the work at hand as the Law Day congregation headed to a reception after the service, which had disrupted the schedule at St. Paul’s. Ground-zero workers’ expected evening meal was not being served, and volunteers began considering whether to buy pizzas for those still showing up for dinner.
Posted on Trinity News May 13, 2002