Ridge affirms $20 billion in federal aid for New York during visit to Trade Center site

By Elizabeth LaSure, The Associated Press
Saturday November 17, 2001

NEW YORK — Homeland security Director Tom Ridge, standing next to rumbling machinery in the World Trade Center rubble, on Friday affirmed the Bush administration’s commitment to $20 billion in aid to the city. 

“I just wanted to assure you on behalf of the President of the United States that his word is as good as gold,” Ridge said after visiting the site of the Sept. 11 attacks with Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. “If you need the $20 billion, and you probably will, you’re going to get it.” 

The attacks will cost the city’s economy an estimated $83 billion in capital losses, cleanup and loss of economic output, according a report released Thursday by the New York City Partnership & Chamber of Commerce. 

Ridge spoke on a platform that has been inscribed with messages in pen and marker to memorialize lost loved ones. Excavating machines could be seen moving below ground in a smoking pit, and two giant shards of the facade of the north tower jutted up in the distance. 

“I think those who would undermine our way of life and those who would bring this tragedy to the greatest city in the world have picked the wrong city, the wrong country, the wrong leaders,” he said. 

Ridge walked onto the site with Giuliani, Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen and Richard Sheirer, who oversees the Office of Emergency Management. 

Ridge shook hands with ground zero workers and had his picture taken with several, becoming another of many officials and dignitaries who have toured the site to get a sense of the destruction. Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Thursday. 

“It’s good that they all come to see what’s really going on,” construction worker Jimmy Pumilia said. 

Before leaving the site, Ridge signed a banner in memory of the international victims of the attacks, writing the message “Good will triumph over evil. God bless you all.” 

Ridge, who was named to his post by President Bush in the wake of the terrorist attacks, recalled events he had hosted at Windows on the World. 

He said seeing the site in person brought back Sept. 11, when “my stomach was churning and my heart was beating faster.” 

“It affects you in a very real and a very personal and a very emotional way,” he said. 

On Thursday night, Ridge told a town hall meeting on Long Island that a high priority in his office would be improving communications technology, including security on the Internet. He said improvements would also be made in checking visas, work permits and other documents that allow foreigners to enter the United States.