It was 26 August 2003, almost two years since 9/11, and the sickening plume of smoke that hung over Ground Zero in lower Manhattan had long since dissipated. But steam was rising from the steps of city hall, three blocks away, where Hillary Clinton was venting her rage at the Bush administration for having lied to the American people.
“I don’t think any of us expected that our government would knowingly deceive us about something as sacred as the air we breathe,” she said, her voice tightening in anger. “The air that our children breathe in schools, that our valiant first responders were facing on the pile.”
Surrounded by firefighters and the doctors who were treating them for respiratory and other illnesses incurred when they worked on the massive mound of Ground Zero rubble – the “pile”, as it was known – the junior senator from New York was incandescent. Audiotape recorded at the time by WNYC, the city’s public radio affiliate, captures a Clinton quite unlike the controlled public figure who is now a step away from the White House.