Lower Manhattan was still bleeding smoke and ashes in a cloud that turned the sun’s rays into a glaring haze when a man walking though the rubble of Ground Zero, where the World Trade Center had stood just two days before, paused to salute those who were laboring in the shadow of death.
And to vow to rebuild.
A Sept. 13, 2001, interview with President Donald Trump shows Trump focused on the work of digging through the tons of debris to find survivors, but also looking beyond America’s time of tragedy to what would come next.
“It’s like a whole different city and world,” Trump said. “I cannot believe the sight of lower Manhattan without the World Trade Center. Therefore, we have to rebuild. Not necessarily in that form, but we have to rebuild. At least as good and maybe better.”
Trump would later submit a design for a structure similar to the World Trade Center that was passed over in favor of the current Freedom Tower.
In the interview, Trump mused upon the destruction, citing the “thousands and thousands of lives” lost in the terrorist attack that was coordinated with an attack on the Pentagon and and a third attack that was foiled when passengers on United Airlines Flight 93 fought against their captors, leading to a crash in Pennsylvania.
Trump’s focus during the interview was the men doing the hazardous, risky work of combing the debris to retrieve the dead and hopefully find survivors.
“I have hundreds of men inside working right now and we’re bringing down another 125 in a little while. They’ve never done work like this before,” Trump said. “Its terrible.”
“Not only is it devastating, but its very dangerous because every few minutes a whistle would go off and everybody would just run because you have all the buildings around it which are in such a weakened state that people just don’t know,” he said.
“It’s a terrible thing for the workers and it’s a terrible thing for the world, really,” he added.
Trump praised the workers who refused to quit.
“The great thing is when they find somebody that’s alive, like the five firemen they just found a little while ago, so that’s the great thing and that’s what they’re all striving for, but generally speaking that’s not the case,” Trump said.
“It’s a very depressing situation for these folks,” he continued.
On the day Trump was interviewed, there was a report that five firefighters had been pulled from the rubble alive. The report was later proven to be inaccurate.
In reality, the report was based on several rescuers who had been pulled out of the rubble after being trapped there earlier that day.
Trump was asked if he thought there were survivors.
“Its a tough situation, but you can’t give up hope,” he said, citing the report of the five firefighters. “There probably are some more people in there but you can’t give up hope.”
Trump then noted that the rescue teams showed incomparable courage.
“But I’ll tell you what, you really can take heart. There firefighters and policemen and the construction workers equally, the courage they have is unbelievable. They’re working, digging out, and lifting up steel. And above them you have 55-story buildings that are very possibly going to be pouring down on them at any minute and they’re working like nothing’s wrong. They’re amazing.”
Trump was in Manhattan on the day of the attacks, and has said he saw the plume of smoke from the Twin Towers after the attack.
Trump caused a furor as a candidate when he noted that in New Jersey, Muslims perched on rooftops celebrated the attacks.
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