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Fmr. N.Y. Governor George Pataki on 9/11 Attack

This is a rush transcript from "Your World With Neil Cavuto," September 11, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: All right, I do want to be ginger about this, but I do think is important to get an idea of what it's like down there. Covered, obviously, down there a number of years.

And this fellow probably knows better than anyone, former New York Governor George Pataki, who led the state during those tragic days.

You know what is down there. You know the mood down there, Governor. You know when they talk to victims' families, as is the case right now with Senator Obama and Senator McCain, Cindy McCain as well. What do you say? What do you do?

GEORGE PATAKI (R), FORMER NEW YORK GOVERNOR: All you can do is express your condolences and praise the courage that they have shown.

Video: Watch Neil's interview with George Pataki

And I think — when I think back to September 11, I have many different emotions. But one is the strength of the families. In the days an weeks afterwards, we all had a tremendous sense of loss, but nothing like someone who lost their child or lost their husband or lost their wife.

And their courage, their strength on September 11 and in the weeks and months afterwards I think is really what inspired us. And still today, their strength, I think, should be an inspiration to all Americans.

CAVUTO: I always felt for you and Mayor Giuliani at the time, Governor, because, as a public official, you are dealing with such gaping tragedy. And I can remember distinctly with you — and I don't know how you did it — I mean, there would be families who had really just lost loved ones. It was — it was fresh. It was not like seven years hence.

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And they just — they just trembled, and cried, and lost it. And I can remember, you would hug them. Sometimes, you didn't say anything. But what do you do? How do you face that as a public official?

PATAKI: Well, you just have to be strong and draw strength from their courage and from the sacrifice of so many, like the firefighters and the police officers, and, as you just heard, from someone's like Rob Fazio's father.

You draw courage from their strength. And, yes, there are times when people need a hug. There's a time when they need a laugh. There's a time when they need to cry on your shoulder. And I think having been there for them to do that was important.

CAVUTO: I remember with you — and I thought of this — in Rudy Giuliani's case, I remember with Bill Clinton at Oklahoma City after the bombing, and I remember down to Ronald Reagan, when he met the challenger families, every single one in the room would get a moment. Every single person would get a hug.

Was there any sense from them that it made a difference, that it provided some sort of closure or some sort of healing?

PATAKI: Oh, you knew it meant a lot to all of them when you did spend the time and give the hug.

And the day that I will never forget with the families was three days later, when President Bush came in, and we went up to the Javits Center, and there were hundreds and hundreds of family members, at that point, many still having hope that their loved one would be found alive.

CAVUTO: Right. Right. Right.

PATAKI: And just the fact that you took the time, you showed the concern, you shared their agony, I think, meant a great deal to them. And it still does.

And we can't forget, on this September 11, even though it's seven years later, forget that, as we reflect back with a sense of loss, that they are hurting more than we are. And this morning, when I was down there, I had the privilege, really, to have a number of families come up and hug me again and thank me.

There was one father telling me, showing me his child who was 2 when I carried him around at ground zero about a week later, and he is now 9. And it was just wonderful to be able to be there again for them, as they have been there with their courage for America.

CAVUTO: All right.

For those who of just obviously — I'm stating the obvious here. This is where you don't need a dumb TV anchor to state the obvious, but I will.

Barack Obama and John McCain are at ground zero. And this is something rather unusual, to put it mildly. But, of course, September 11, 2001, to put in mildly, unusual.

And I'm with Governor George Pataki right now of New York, who was leading the state at that time.

And, Governor, I was mentioning here that I have two little boys who were born after that tragic event. And you wonder about people, like we say, who were born after the JFK assassination or born, I guess years back, after Pearl Harbor, right, and the generation and those at the time say, man, oh, man, will they ever get a sense of the magnitude of this event?

And the more time that passes, do you wonder, will we do this maybe beyond the 10-year anniversary, beyond — you know what I mean?

PATAKI: I hope we continue to do this.

But, most, importantly, Neil, I was struck when you said that. And it made me think of the memorial that is under construction, because that, from the beginning, I knew had to be the centerpiece of the reconstruction of Lower Manhattan. And it is. And it is not just a memorial. It is something that will tell the story of the heroes, tell the story of the — the loss that we had, but also the courage we showed.

And you will be able to show where the towers stood. And I think it will affect everyone.

CAVUTO: All right, one moment of pause here. The candidates have just laid the roses down. Obviously, quite a few have beaten them to the punch today, but this is particularly powerful.

When you think about it, these guys have a heck of a race going on right now. They are dead even in the polls. There's been some nastiness back and forth, some recrimination back and forth. And all the nastiness notwithstanding, and the drama that will come tonight at Columbia University in New York, where you're going to have sort of a like a — what they're calling a Rick Warren redux, not a nasty event.

Each will be interviewed separately, but a forum where each will talk about service, community service, and each will promote their own plans for community service — so, each, for a day, putting aside their partisan differences and the rancor of this campaign to pay their respects, not as competing candidates for president of the United States, but as Americans, as good soldiers, remembering 3,000 who lost their lives.

Let's listen in.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: God bless you.

CAVUTO: You might have noticed that neither presidential candidate is making a speech at this event. In fact, speeches, as Governor Pataki could tell you, were limited to a minimum today, most of the speaking, of course, done by victims' families this morning, marked the time each of the planes hit the respective towers, and that was it.

So, most of the speaking today has been done by just average folks. And the big muckety-mucks, as they like to say in the world of politics, were silent. And these gentlemen, one of whom will become the next president of the United States, will move on tonight to a Columbia University forum, in which the theme will be public service, personal responsibility, and what can we do to make America better. It will not be a debate.

They will be separately interviewed. It will be what they call a genteel forum, or I guess anything could happen, but, on this side, each side doing its darndest to make sure it doesn't get nasty.

Tomorrow, September 12, I guess they can back to the nastiness. Today, September 11, seven years after a day that changed the world, they are putting all that aside.

Still with Governor Pataki.

I can't believe, Governor, as we sit here — maybe a testament to how old I'm getting — it has been seven years, and whether the longer the gap between this event and today, do we forget this, or — I guess you never forget it, per se, but what prompted it and the fear of it and being vigilant about it?

PATAKI: Well, I certainly hope not, because we know that those who attacked us before want to do it again. And wherever they might be in the world at this point in time, this country, because of our belief in freedom, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, the freedom to worship as we see fit, will always be a target for those who believe in imposing their views on others.

So, we have to be vigilant. I think the American people know that. Certainly, our professionals do. We are fighting not here, but overseas, against those who want to attack us again. And I certainly think that is the right thing to do.

CAVUTO: You know, we could talk back and forth about whether what we addressed that happened at this piece of land in New York City turned into a war that was, at the very least, and is, at the very least , controversial, but when you are with victims' families, when you're with the first-responders, as Senator McCain, Cindy McCain are right now, none of that seems to matter when you talk to them.

PATAKI: No.

CAVUTO: You know, it never comes up.

PATAKI: No, it doesn't.

They — one of the points that I think shows their strength is, sure, they reflect on the person they lost. But they look forward. And it is always encouraging to me when you see families come together, and they will have a sign of their father or their daughter, and, yet, they will be smiling in the face of this incredible loss, and talking about what their children or grandchildren or what they are doing going forward.

And — but that's what America is. You know, we are not going to forget. We are not going to lose our vigilance against those who want to attack us, but we are going to move forward with the confidence we are entitled to have as Americans.

CAVUTO: You know, we have had so many divisive moments since 9/11, as you know, Governor, including the campaign before it. But, when you see these gentlemen walking together, and, you know, they have got a pretty nasty race on their hand, a pretty dead-even race on their hand, is it possible that we can return to civility, return to both sides working together, return to that brief moment where, because of what happened, tragically, at that site and in Washington and a field in Pennsylvania, we weren't doing that?

PATAKI: We weren't doing that. And we have to do it again.

And you used the word powerful, as Senators Obama and McCain stood there in a moment of silent prayer. And that's what I felt as well, the power of the silence. You don't have to always speak loudly to convey a strong message.

And, after September 11, as I, that morning, walked the streets of Lower Manhattan to encourage people, the overwhelming since I had was one of unity. We were all together. You were not Republican or Democrat, certainly, not black or white, or rich or poor. We were Americans.

And, sure, we have tough elections, but what we have to realize is that we have so much more that binds us together, so much more we look forward to together as citizens of the freest and greatest country in the world, that we have to stand shoulder to shoulder when we are attacked or in times of crisis, as, to their great credit, both Senators McCain and Obama have just done.

CAVUTO: Well, with the risk of sounding biased, I remember — and I think Democrats do as well — you got us through a tough period in your own right.

Governor, thank you very much.

PATAKI: Thank you.

CAVUTO: Governor George Pataki ruled the state of New York 12 years, no easy feat, for a Republican, no less.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

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