Former New York Gov. George Pataki, who led his state through the 9/11 terrorist attacks that transformed the nation more than a decade ago, offered words of solace to the victims of Monday’s terrorist attack, telling Newsmax TV “Boston will overcome this and they will come back stronger, as New York did.”
Pataki, who served as governor from 1995 to 2006, said in an exclusive interview on Tuesday that New York would not have come back as quickly as it did, had it not been for an outpouring of support from across the nation.
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“First of all, it requires all of us — the entire country —rallying behind a city and people who have suffered this hideous attack,” he said. “New York couldn’t have come back as strongly, or as quickly as we did, without the whole country helping us, and we do have to give our prayers to the people of Boston — but also to the extent we can do something — like take a business trip there, go stay in a hotel, go eat in a restaurant. Support those now who are going to be risking the collateral impact.”
Even as New York City imposed a heightened state of awareness — flooding high profile targets with a visible police presence immediately following the Boston terror bombings, Pataki noted there was still an air of normalcy in America’s largest city on Tuesday.
“First of all we’re saddened and of course feeling a tremendous sense of loss and pain for the people of Boston — for those who were killed and their families, for those who are injured, and for the people of Boston,” Pataki explained. “But at the same time you see the streets — you see Times Square, you see where I worked in Rockefeller Center — and people are out enjoying a very late spring and appreciating the greatness of our city, the greatness of our country. That’s as it should be.”
In 1994, Pataki defied the polls by defeating Mario Cuomo in a gubernatorial upset. He presided over New York’s economic resurgence in the 1990s and had been widely credited in leading New York City back to health after the devastating attacks of Sept. 11.
He noted that the U.S. was much better prepared to handle Monday’s attack in Massachusetts as a result of the lessons learned from 9/11.
“America is far better prepared,” he said. Both proactive to protect ourselves, but then in those horrible incidences like yesterday where we have to react — to be able to react quickly, compassionately, and in the most effective way possible. Boston by all accounts has done that. They were ready, they have reacted appropriately.”
He said that New York has had tremendous success with a program called “See Something, Say Something” in which the general public is encouraged to call in if they spot someone or something that is suspicious.
“If you think back, the terrorist who wanted to detonate a van in Times Square in New York was caught not by the police, but turned in by an observant civilian who said, ‘this person is not acting correctly,’” according to Pataki, who believes that Americans need not live in fear.
Just as the first responders of New York touched the hearts of a grateful nation, so too did the first responders of The City on a Hill.
“You look at the EMTs. You look at the police officers. You look at just civilians running to the site and helping their fellow Bostonians, their fellow Americans, and that is always what has gotten us through crises in the past and in particular Sept. 11,” said Pataki. “The thousands — not just the first responders who we have tremendous pride in — but just civilians from every walk of life who just set aside their daily lives, risked their lives, and in some cases gave them to help their fellow human beings.”
He added that there are lessons Americans can take away from tragedies such as Monday’s bombing.
“We just have to hopefully understand that we have so much in common,” the governor explained. “We have so much that brings us together every day that it shouldn’t take a hideous terrorist attack like yesterday in Boston to appreciate each other simply for our basic humanity.”
Pataki is reluctant to speculate on who might be behind the Boston attack.
“Clearly, the morning of Sept. 11 it was obvious that it was a coordinated attack organized overseas by a very highly motivated and trained terrorist network,” he recalled. “And so immediately you had to take the steps to be concerned about other possible attacks. And obviously it just created an enormous reaction on the part — not just in the United States, but the world to ramp up our efforts to find and to kill and to protect us from those who had engaged in this action.”
That’s not necessarily so in Boston.
“One of the most dangerous things is to speculate that it could be group A or group B,” he said. “It could just be a crazed individual with a personal grudge and we just have to have confidence that the authorities are, and will, do everything they can to determine what happened, to bring them to justice, and to learn from this as we always must do to make sure we’re as safe as we possibly can be.”
Despite the years of preparation since 9/11, Pataki said that he and others were nevertheless caught off guard by the boldness of Monday’s attack.
“We were all surprised,” he acknowledged. “We knew that the risk was there. We knew that those who want to — for whatever reasons and we don’t know the reasons at this point — just engage in acts of terror are still out there, but it’s always a surprise.
“You just pray it’s not going to happen, but we need a government that’s very active, proactive in working to make sure they do everything they can that it doesn’t happen,” he said. “So it’s surprising. It’s shocking. But it’s something we understand in the 21st century we have to live with.”
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