The Right-Hand Man

Article excerpt

Byline: Bernard B. Kerik

New York's police commissioner rose high--and fell hard--in the wake of the tragedy.

As was the case for his patron, Rudolph Giuliani, the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, changed everything for Bernard Kerik, ramping up his career trajectory from local-boy-makes-good to national hero. His bestselling autobiography, rushed out in November of that year, recounts an inspirational story of "The Lost Son" of a prostitute who--through talent, true grit, and hard work--rose to become New York's police commissioner. After 9/11, Kerik found himself in the stratosphere--honored by the queen of England, dispatched by the White House to rebuild the Iraqi police force, and, in 2004, nominated by President Bush to be secretary of homeland security. Sadly, Kerik's downfall was swift. The nomination vetting process revealed him as a dirty cop whose lies and corruption ultimately landed him in prison. After pleading guilty to various felonies including tax fraud and lying to White House officials, he began serving a four-year sentence last summer. Today Inmate 84888-054 writes from the minimum-security facility in Cumberland, Md.

--Lloyd Grove

Sept. 11, 2001, began like most days. Around 6 a.m., I gave my wife, Hala, and my daughter, Celine, a kiss before heading out, in sweats, for my morning workout. It was a blue-sky day. After a jog on the treadmill in the back of my office at NYPD headquarters, I took a shower and started shaving. Suddenly, two members of my staff banged on my door. I was in a towel, with shaving cream all over my face, when I answered. "A plane hit Tower 1," they said.

Within minutes I was there. Debris was falling from the top of the North Tower. People were running out of buildings, screaming and crying. A police sergeant ran toward me and my men. "Back up!" he yelled. "They're jumping!" As I turned around to give an order to one of my men, an enormous explosion and fireball blew out of the north side of the South Tower. I was confused at first. What just happened? Then I heard that a second jet had hit the second building. In that instant I knew we were at war.

Before going to headquarters that night, I took one more walk past what had already become known as "Ground Zero. …