- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 30, 2001

As Time magazine prepared to publish its annual Man/Woman/Person/Machine of the Year issue, the guessing game provoked by the the newsweekly's annual choice (brilliant promotional device that it is) grew especially heated as rumors spread that 2001 would belong to Osama bin Laden. It's not that most people don't want his head; it's just that they would prefer not to have it gussied up as "Person of the Year" particularly now, knowing full well how much the glossy clipping would brighten up whatever hole in the cave-wall the Saudi terrorist calls home these days.

It was obvious that this year's selection would be determined by the events of September 11. Imagine the field as of Sept. 10. At a time when Americans gave more thought to shark attacks than terrorism, and more thought to Gary Condit and the disappearance of Chandra Levy than to shark attacks, the pickings were what you call slim. It's not hard to imagine a final decision at such a time having come down to a coin toss between someone like Jim "Benedict" Jeffords and The Pocket Pager. Certainly not New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Time's eventual choice for "Person of the Year."

September 11 changed all that, as it changed so much and despite the intentions of bin Laden rather than because of them. Not only did the atrocious attacks inspire storied acts of heroism and revive a long-quiescent patriotism, they have transformed international alliances, allowing, for example, a new understanding to emerge between the United States and Russia, fostering a greater solidarity with Israel and revealing the deep stress marks of a most dysfunctional relationship with Saudi Arabia.

And they forced Mr. Giuliani into a historic role that will not soon be forgotten, elevating an already legendary city mayor and one in the throes of what seemed a massive mid-life crisis to a place in the national pantheon. With unstinting dedication, Mr. Giuliani did more than rise to this terrible occasion. He towered above it, providing exceptional leadership and solace, offering realism and hope to a shattered city and, by extension, the nation beyond at a time of unprecedented crisis. "You would have thought he had prepared for it forever," Beth Petrone-Haddon, his executive assistant of 18 years, has said. In a way, of course, he had.

As he prepares to leave the office he served so well, handing off to Mayor-elect Mike Bloomberg at midnight on Jan. 1 in Times Square, Mr. Giuliani plans to take a long-deserved vacation and break from public life. But not, we trust, for too long.

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