NEW YORK – He won't be the mayor of New York after Jan. 1, but Mayor Rudolph Giuliani will at least have the consolation of being Time magazine's Man of the Year for 2001.
Skyrocketing from the butt of local Gotham jokes to a worldwide hero for his handling of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on his city, Giuliani was selected to join the prestigious ranks of such other Time honorees as Franklin D. Roosevelt, Bill Gates, the personal computer and Adolf Hitler.
Chosen to recognize the man, woman or object that shapes history more profoundly than any other, Giuliani was nominated by the magazine's editors "for having more faith in us than we had in ourselves, for being brave when required and rude where appropriate and tender without being trite, for not sleeping and not quitting and not shrinking from the pain all around him."
There was little doubt in anyone's mind that the Person of the Year would be connected to the watershed event of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Editors spent hours debating whether to name Usama bin Laden, the prime suspect in the terror assault, for the spot, Time managing editor Jim Kelly said.
But bin Laden was "too small a man to get the credit for all that has happened in America in the autumn of 2001," the magazine said. "It is what came after his men had finished their job that has come to define this year."
"The mayor is very humbled and feels this honor is really being given to the people of the city of New York for their courage and bravery during the most horrific attack on the United States," Giuliani's communications director, Sunny Mindel, said.
The Person of the Year package includes an oral history of Sept. 11 as told by Giuliani and his aides. The issue hits newsstands on Monday, one week before Giuliani's last day in office after eight years.
Giuliani was barred by term limits from seeking a third consecutive term. Republican Michael Bloomberg will be sworn in as New York City's mayor at midnight on Jan. 1.
Before the attacks, crimefighter-turned-politician Giuliani, 57, was generally mocked by newspapers that filled their pages with tidbits about his divorce, his self-confessed sexual fallibilities and accounts of his angry public outbursts.
New Yorkers had begun to think the diehard fan of Yankees and police officers was almost consciously making himself a target of criticsm. He reflexively defended police officers after a series of fatal police shootings of unarmed black men, and faught a losing battle with the Brooklyn Museum of Art over what he labeled "indecent" art.
But in the span of a few days, Giuliani's unusually gentle handling of a city in despair after the attack vaulted him from being regarded as a prickly lame duck politician who had run out of ideas to a civic saint mentioned for the Nobel Prize.
Giuliani has acknowledged recently that there are some things he could have done better.
"I have the feeling that you have when you've done everything you can do," Giuliani said. "Where you feel, 'Well, I haven't held back any effort.' There are things probably I would do differently in terms of judgments I would make if I could make them again, but I've given every effort that I'm capable of and tried to do as good a job as mayor as I possibly could do. So I feel happy about that at least."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.