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The key players of the center of 9/11

Satellite image of lower Manhattan shows smoke and

Satellite image of lower Manhattan shows smoke and ash rising from the WTC site on 9/12/01. (Getty) Credit: Satellite image of lower Manhattan shows smoke and ash rising from the WTC site on 9/12/01. (Getty)

9/11 made the careers of some politicians and architects -- but it broke the reputations of others as well. Here’s a look at the major figures:

The governor
George Pataki, 66

Role in rebuilding: Shortly after 9/11, then-Gov. Pataki became a leading proponent of redevelopment at the WTC site. Many political observers saw his involvement in shaping plans for what was known as the Freedom Tower as leverage for a presidential run.

The gatekeeper: Seen as a gatekeeper of sorts to the memorial project, he once said that he wouldn’t “tolerate anything on that site that denigrates America.” But the ballooning tab for rebuilding and several construction delays began to tarnish his legacy.

Mosque controversy: He was one of the most outspoken critics of a planned Islamic cultural center and mosque near the site, and some believed he was using the controversy to gear up for a 2012 presidential bid. However, Pataki said in late August that he did not plan to throw his hat in the ring.

The mayor
Rudy Giuliani, 67

“America’s mayor”: Perhaps no one gained more attention than then-Mayor Giuliani following the 9/11 attacks. He was widely hailed for uniting the city in a time of crisis. He became known as “America’s mayor,” and he was named Time magazine’s Person of the Year.

Harsh critics: But critics downplayed his role in the aftermath of 9/11, calling him power-hungry and saying that his leadership was overstated. Giuliani was harpooned for his dismissal of asbestos fears at the site. In the first month, he called air quality “safe and acceptable,” and did not require Ground Zero workers to wear respirators.

Presidential run: Giuliani, a Republican, went on to run for president in 2008, campaigning on a strong national security platform, but public disapproval of the war on terror and a shifting focus toward the economy marked his downfall.

The top cop
Bernard Kerik, 56

Counterterrorism leader: As police commissioner, Kerik was heavily involved in the city’s counterterrorism efforts after the attacks. He set up the New York Metropolitan Committee on Counterterrorism, which reviewed security procedures and technology.

Off to Iraq: In May 2003, Kerik was appointed by George W. Bush to be the interim minister of the interior of Iraq, helping rebuild the police force there. Then, in 2004, Bush nominated Kerik to be the U.S. secretary of homeland security, but revelations that he privately employed an illegal immigrant killed his bid.

Fraud probe: Later, an investigation found that Kerik accepted money and gifts from a company in exchange for using his position to get it a city license, and also evaded taxes. He pleaded guilty to tax fraud and other charges and was sentenced to four years in prison in 2010.

The architect
Daniel Libeskind, 65

Winning design: Libeskind is the architect whose plan was chosen for the skyscrapers and 9/11 memorial at Ground Zero. His vision, called “Memory Foundations,” imagined a 1,776-foot-tall building — to commemorate the year of American independence — a “Park of Heroes,” and a plaza called the “Wedge of Light.”

Losing out: But his dream was cut short when developer Larry Silverstein brought in his own architect, David Childs, who immediately discarded Libeskind’s work. One World Trade Center, the anchor of the site today, has only its height in common with Libeskind’s original rendering. The site’s basic format of a ring of descending towers leading to a memorial also is his.

No hard feelings: Libeskind doesn’t harbor any ill will. In an August interview with the Chicago Tribune, he said: “I think it’s a very creative and profound interpretation of the idea of the master plan.”

The developer
Larry Silverstein, 80

Taking over the Twin Towers: Known as the “Ground Zero developer,” Silverstein’s real estate development company assumed a 99-year lease on the trade center six weeks before 9/11. Separately, he built Seven World Trade Center in the 1980s, as well as its replacement a few years after 9/11.

Insurance dispute: In the aftermath of the attacks, Silverstein attempted to collect double the original insurance claims on the buildings, citing the two plane impacts as two separate events requiring double the payment. After lengthy disputes, a court ruled that a maximum of $4.55 billion was payable for rebuilding the site.

The face of rebuilding: Silverstein has appeared at several rallies for the site and has promised that his buildings — which are being constructed to exceed city building codes — will be the safest in NYC.

The president
George Bush, 65

Classroom controversy: On 9/11, President Bush was visiting students in a Florida classroom. Video shows him sitting calmly for seven minutes during a reading after his chief of staff alerted him to the attacks. Critics maligned him for not immediately jumping into action. But he earned his highest approval ratings — more than 90% — in the months after.

Iraq war: But it was all downhill from there when he launched a unilateral attack on Iraq in March 2003 with no evidence that the country harbored weapons of mass destruction. The war became an international stain on America’s image. Bush left office in 2009 with an approval rating of 22%.

Justifying his actions: Since then, he wrote a memoir, “Decision Points,” in which he offered few apologies for his decisions as president — except for his slow response to Hurricane Katrina.

The EPA chief
Christie Todd Whitman, 64

Claims of safe air: Whitman became the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency in 2001. Just weeks after the 9/11 attacks, the EPA released a report in which Whitman declared the air at Ground Zero to be safe and that the toxins released in the attacks posed no public health risk. The EPA later said that the White House pushed it to hide cautionary data. Whitman resigned in June 2003.

On the defensive: In 2007, a suit was brought against officials at the helm of the EPA, and plaintiffs accused Whitman of knowingly lying about poor air quality at Ground Zero. In 2008, a U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that Whitman was not at fault.

Fighting back: Since then, she has been an outspoken critic of the Bush administration and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin during the 2008 election.


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