Sunday, September 18, 2011

Disgusting Political Attack Shows Cowardice

At 8:41 a.m. on September 11, 2011, just five minutes before most of the nation was prepared to stand in silence at the exact time the north tower of the World Trade Center was attacked ten years earlier, Paul Krugman, a columnist for the New York Times, thought not of those lost on that day nor the families they left behind nor the New York City first responders who put their lives on the line in one of the greatest rescue and evacuation missions in our country's history nor the ceremonies around the country that were about to take place.

When the rest of the country, Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, were all coming together to remember one of the darkest days in our nation's history, Mr. Krugman felt it was the perfect time to launch a cowardly smear campaign and political attack on those who were there in positions of leadership on September 11, 2001, and who did their best to get our country through those extremely difficult times.

After reading the words he posted on his blog, The Conscience of a Liberal, I feel compelled to respond.

In the aftermath of the worst terrorist attack in world history, this country did unite in every walk of life, in every political arena and in every community in this country. There was no "wedge issue" or division or disagreement about anything. The American people came together as one, as they should have, with incredible resilience and camaraderie. I'm not sure where Mr. Krugman was hiding at the time, but his own paper and employer wrote all about it.

As for President George W. Bush, Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, or me racing to "cash in on the horror," I can only assume that relates to writing a book, promoting that book or speaking about the events of that day or its aftermath--no different than Mr. Krugman's colleagues at the New York Times. They used information they acquired through their investigative reporting to publish books, give media interviews and talks specifically about that day and its aftermath.

Did they race to cash in? Personally, I don't think so. I think their--and all our stories--need to be many of them as possible.

Did Mr. Krugman attacked his own colleagues for "cashing in?" Did he throw a tantrum when former President Bill Clinton published his book or the Mayor of New Orleans Ray Nagin published his or when they gave speeches relating to their time in office? I'd bet not.

As Americans, we have a duty to tell the story and history of that day.

When the second jet airliner struck the south tower, I was there, dodging debris from the plane and building. When the south tower collapsed, Mayor Giuliani, me, and members of our staffs were a block away, trapped in a building. In dealing with the rescue, recovery and investigation, we all did the best we could at the time, which by all accounts, like it or not, was far better than the handling of others crises around the world, especially considering that we had no warning of what was about to come.

In the past ten years, Mr. Krugman and others like him who didn't have to deal with the death, destruction and devastation, and the rebuilding of a shattered city, have felt compelled to constantly attack those of us who did. Then, to make matters worse, on this 9/11, ten years later, when the entire country was once again united in memory of those we lost and that horrendous day, Mr. Krugman didn't have the common courtesy, decency and patriotism to unite. He chose instead to rant, and his rant was disgusting.

There's something else Mr. Krugman should know:

In 2001, I assisted in the development of a photo book about the first responders on 9/11. The proceeds of that book went to the widows and children of members of the NYPD and FDNY who died in the line of duty. The book raised more than $550,000 that was given to the charity. Between 2002-2004, I was paid $70,000 for my part in putting that book together. The media had a field day when this came to light. However, what they also knew, but refused to publish, was this: Between 2002 and 2004, my wife and I gave that much, plus another $50,000, to charities relating to the first responders of 9/11, the U.S. Military, and medical aid for Iraqi children and Coptic orphans. Included in the $120,000 we gave was $50,000 to the New York City PBA Widows and Orphans Fund, $10,000 to the New York Firefighters Burn Center Foundation, and $5,000 to the FDNY Fire Safety Education Fund.

Something Krugman and almost no one else has ever known was that, within a few days after the attack, when I realized the 23 police officers who worked for me were probably dead, out of concern for their families' well being, I contacted a personal friend of mine in an attempt to raise money for them. Three days later, I was able to present each of those families with a check for $10,000, for a total of $230,000. I did so with no fanfare, no media hype, and no benefit to me or my family or my staff.

And then between 2001 and 2004, Mayor Giuliani and members of his cabinet, including me, created the Twin Towers Fund, a charity for the families and those first responders who were lost. In just under three years, we personally raised more than $216 million that was given to 600 families. I never took a dime for my work in the fund, and in fact, my wife and I contributed $20,000 to the fund in 2002.

Mr. Krugman, how much money did you personally raise for the families of the victims who perished on 9/11? I'm just curious to know.

Lastly, the "fake hero" comment in Mr. Krugman's blog was a combination of ignorance and childish immaturity. And although I don't need to defend my own career and heroics, established long before 9/11, I do feel obligated to respond to his stupidity concerning the others, given that I saw them in action.

When the entire nation was stunned and needed inspiration and leadership with the courage, compassion and dignity to get this country back on its feet, George W. Bush, George Pataki, Rudy Giuliani, Tom Von Essen and others did just that. You cannot change history or erase reality. Stop trying to politicize that moment in time. None of us were perfect, but we gave it our all. Mr. Krugman can write all the nasty political attack columns he wants, but they will never change the horrors of that day, the enemy who attacked us, the rescue and response that followed, and the work that was done by those of us who were there to help our city, state and country.

Now, ten years later, Mr. Krugman wrote that the "memory of 9/11 was irrevocably poisoned; it has become an occasion of shame."

The real shame, sir, is that you still hold a position with the New York Times. You, and those like you with your cowardly poison pens, are a disgrace to your profession, your newspaper, and to the country that provides you the very freedom that allows you to spew your political garbage.

Sunday, September 4, 2011


Today is my 56th birthday, and I will share the day with my wife Hala, and my youngest daughters, Celine and Angelina. They are three of the greatest gifts God has given me.

For many years we have told Celine about a tragic story that ultimately had a happy ending, thanks to the men and women in the FDNY and NYPD, including a Sergeant John Coughlin, of the NYPD's Emergency Response Unit.

Now that Celine is old enough to understand the true meaning of courage and heroism, I recently told her something that I had kept from her for years....the rest of the story, as they say. She responded with this letter:

Dear Mrs. Coughlin,

On August 25, 2000, a woman in the Bronx called 911 for help because her six month old baby was choking and could barely breathe. The police and fire department officers came to their apartment, and when the baby's father, who was working found out, he rushed home. When he arrived at his apartment, he saw all the police and emergency vehicles and was afraid of what happened.

As he came in the door, the first thing he saw was his wife crying hysterically, but then he saw a big policeman, Sergeant John Coughlin of the NYPD, holding the baby in his arms over his head, and the baby was laughing so hard, and she was ok.

Well, that baby was me. My name is Celine Kerik, and my father was the police commissioner at the time, Bernard Kerik.

Today I am 11 years old, and my mother and father have told me that story many many times, but what I had not known until now is that Sgt. John Coughlin, your husband, died when the Twin Towers came crashing down on top of him on September 11, 2001.

After learning and understanding what happened, and since it will be 10 years ago since he died, I wanted to write you this letter.

My father always says he was a hero for all of New York City and the country, and he called him a Teddy Bear with a big heart. But for me, he is my hero for helping keep me alive, and I just wanted to thank him.

My Uncle Besim recently died, and my dad said it was because God needs lots of angels in heaven. I'm sure Mr. Coughlin is one of them. God Bless him, and you and your daughters too.



Today, we celebrated not just my birthday but Celine's life being saved as well. And we celebrated the first responders and all who serve our country. Please pray for them, Sgt. John Coughlin and his family, and all who have put their lives on the line for the people of the United States of America.

Friday, August 26, 2011


In the early morning hours of September 12, 2001, Ground Zero looked like a war zone. The towers were gone, the surrounding buildings burnt out and destroyed, and smoke and ash were everywhere. Fires lit the darkness in recesses where debris and rubble had ignited.

Stunned by the death and devastation on this battlefield, turned hallowed ground, an NYPD sergeant and detective stood there, scanning the site. Suddenly, something caught their eye: an American flag.

It was wrapped around a contorted street light, not far from the plaza of the World Trade Center where it had flown proudly the day before. Tattered and torn, this American flag had survived the worst terror attack in world history.

As the sergeant stared at the flag, he realized it was upside down...the international signal for distress. His blood boiled at the thought. Our city and country had been hit and hit hard, but we were not in distress. Our country had been hurt and hurt bad, but we would survive.

With the help of firemen and military personnel nearby, they retrieved the flag. Carefully, as they had been taught, the soldiers folded it, and handed it to my men. Then standing in silence, they saluted that flag.

I knew nothing of this until hours later that morning when I walked into my office. I was hit by a strong smell of smoke. When I looked around to see why, I noticed a folded flag sitting on the corner of my desk. There was a note with it that read:

“Boss... this is the flag that flew in front of the WTC at Church Street. It was blown off the pole and was tangled on the street light. We as well as some firefighters and soldiers recovered it. The soldiers folded it. In Israel, you said that we can't back down to terrorism. You are right. You lead, and we will follow."

I was overcome by their words, but more so at the sight of the flag sitting there. Less than 24 hours ago, this incredible symbol of freedom and democracy had flown proudly in front of two of the largest buildings in the world. On a clear, blue sky morning, those buildings and thousands working inside them were attacked and destroyed by an enemy who despised the very freedoms that flag represented.

I thought of its history, and the men and women who had fought for, and died, defending it. I thought of the first responders who gave their lives the day before while serving the people of New York City.

Now sitting silent and still on my desk, that flag's symbolism seemed more powerful and mighty than ever. It inspired the men who retrieved it, me, and every person who walked into my office. Some people kissed it. Some touched it. Others simply stared at it or nodded in respect.

This symbol of our country's birth and resilience, once again, as in past battles, inspired, moved and strengthened our resolve. It brought our political leaders together and created unity in our country. All across America, flags heralded this truth: Good will prevail over evil.

Today, in these truly trying times, I think back to those moments and that flag.

In recent days, we have suffered a tremendous loss of 30 of this nation's greatest warriors, and we have witnessed historic economic setbacks and political polarization. Gloom and doom permeates our headlines and airwaves. This is not a time to provoke fear or lose confidence in our nation's resilience and spirit. This is not a time for pessimism, or throwing in the towel, or writing us off as a second rate nation.

This is not the time to give in or give up!!!

This is a time for unity, optimism, and national support for our country and that flag. It is a time for a call to action...just as in the aftermath of the attacks on our country. It is a time we must stand together, as one nation, under God and indivisible. Most important, it is a time to reflect and learn from that flag…learn from the men and women who died, fighting for and defending it, and from the strength of the families they left behind. May we learn from the flag that was ripped from its stand, but whose spirit and symbolism could not be destroyed.

In these trying times and when we need it most, stand up and honor that flag with the strength, unity, courage and conviction that it has symbolized for us for more than 230 years. We owe it to our children, and their children, as well. Most important, we owe it to that flag and the country it represents.

God Bless the USA.

Bernard B. Kerik