Dawn Pisturino's Blog

My Writing Journey

Giuliani vs. Nagin: How Mayors Respond to Disasters

on September 11, 2021
New York Daily News Photo

Both the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 in New York City and Hurricane Katrina on August 29, 2005 were major disasters. One was a manmade disaster and the other a natural disaster. In New York City, the damage was contained in Manhattan. But in New Orleans, the damage was widespread and uncontrolled.

On the night of September 11, 2001, Mayor Rudy Giuliani held a press conference to inform citizens of New York City and the entire nation of what happened, the response to the event, and future recovery. He talked about his own experiences during the event and how he and the people with him survived.

Mayor Giuliani presented himself as calm, rational, and confident. He maintained his composure and self-control. He made it clear to the public that everything was under control. He reassured them that everything was okay, and they were safe.

His message was positive and hopeful. He honored the victims and praised the people who had evacuated in a peaceful and civilized manner and helped each other along the way. He emphasized how proud he was of the people and first responders of New York City.

Giuliani became emotional when talking about the first responders and fire and police personnel who died. He asked everyone to pray for the victims and to be grateful that they were alive.

Towards the end of the news conference, he stressed that members of the Muslim community would be protected. He condemned all acts of vigilante violence and retaliation. He asked people who worked in Manhattan to stay home from work.

The mayor projected a feeling of hope, security, and confidence that the U.S. government would deal with the perpetrators and New York City would rebuild and be stronger than before.

Three days after Hurricane Katrina made landfall in New Orleans, Mayor Ray Nagin made an impassioned plea on WWL Radio for help. He described the horrific conditions in New Orleans and the lack of response by FEMA and the federal government. His anger and frustration were real. He was clearly traumatized by events.

When I was listening to him, I kept thinking that here is a man who feels powerless. There was apparently no clear chain of command or designated people in authority. Mayor Nagin was there, on the ground, asking for the authority to do something from people who seemed indifferent to the situation. He reminded everyone that FEMA knew about the problems with the pumping stations and did nothing. He wanted to know when the help promised by the federal government was coming. He deplored the fact that valuable resources were being wasted on looters and lawlessness instead of rescuing and helping victims.

At the end of the broadcast, he called on the public to be active in contacting authorities and demanding help for New Orleans. He contrasted the immediate response and aftermath of 9/11 to the lack of response to New Orleans. He was outraged.

Mayor Nagin had every right to be outraged by the slow response to Hurricane Katrina. And maybe his angry message was what it took to get things done.

Authentic History. (Presenter). (2011, January 11). 9/11 news coverage: 10:00 pm: Mayor rudy

       giuliani press conference [Video file]. Retrieved from  

       http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3DZw0Q6WUsA.

Froomkin, M. (Presenter). (2005, September 2). Interview with mayor ray nagin of new orleans

       [Audio file]. Retrieved from

Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

October 7, 2019

Copyright 2019-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.


3 responses to “Giuliani vs. Nagin: How Mayors Respond to Disasters

  1. This is a good article. I think you acutely portrayed the difference between leaders and non-leaders when the rubber meets the road.

    Liked by 1 person

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