French President Jacques Chirac visited New York City Wednesday and was given an aerial tour of the devastated World Trade Center site in a city helicopter, accompanied by New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. The French leader gave an emotional tribute to the Mayor and his city.
In a city that still feels under siege, black limousines with darkened windows, flanked by police vehicles, whisked the Mayor and his guest through the city streets. In a news conference at a west side port facility guarded by heavily armed police and soldiers, President Chirac, speaking in English, praised the city and its citizens for their courage and calm in the face of terror. He said, "We really admire what has been done here and the calm of the population just after the attack and all the efficiency of the response to this attack. I ask Mayor Giuliani to say to all his people around him, including all the volunteers, how we admire them."
Noting that his country has also been the victim of terrorist attacks in the past, Mr. Chirac told Mayor Giuliani that the brave effort he made in the past several days has been an inspiration to the world. He said French newspapers are calling him "Rudy, the Rock" because of his strength and courage. President Chirac continued, "I want to say 'bravo!' Thank you. You did that for the New Yorkers, but also for all the free world, for the dignity of humankind and we know that and we are beside you."
For his part, Mayor Giuliani turned the focus on the people of the city and called them the real heroes. "Mr. President, the reality is that whatever strength I have comes from the people of New York. They are the remarkable ones. [They are] the ones that are lost, the ones that are missing and the ones who are working so hard to try to find people and bring us all together."
Mayor Giuliani later took the French president to see the disaster site and areas where the relief effort continues. Mr. Chirac was the first foreign leader to have visited the site of the World Trade towers attack.