The Phone Call Ed Koch Remembers

From an interview piece with the former mayor of New York:

Koch was “heartbroken,” he says, and even suffered a minor stroke, after it transpired in the middle of his third term that several of his close political allies were involved in graft, extortion and bribery. His friend, Queens Borough President Donald Manes, was implicated and pursued by Giuliani, then the U.S. attorney, and ended up committing suicide in a particularly grisly fashion, plunging a kitchen knife into his own heart.

“It put me into a state of depression,” Koch tells me. “I came out of it when John Cardinal O’Connor called me. We were very good friends. He said, ‘Ed, I know you’re depressed. You don’t have to be. Everybody knows you’re an honest man.’ I said, ‘Your Eminence, you don’t how much this means to me.’ And he said, ‘Oh no, it’s nothing.’ And I said, ‘No, Your Eminence, the Lubavitcher Rebbe didn’t call me, you called me, and I’m very grateful.’ From that point on, I got better.”

Two years, after the Al Smith dinner in New York — so after 10 P.M., after a long dinner event with lots of people who wanted time with him — I watched as Ed Koch (if he’s 88 now, he was 86 then) stood in a cab line outside the Waldorf-Astoria, warmly receiving everyone on the street who recognized him as he stood patiently waiting. He made headlines recently for other things, but this is what should be the headline: a lesson in being present, in noticing, in taking the time.

My Jewish mayor teaches me how to be a better Christian.

  • Maggie Goff

    Thank you, Kathryn. You are a fine example yourself. :)

  • Shan G.

    Mayor Koch made a remark on a T.V. panel discussion that has stuck with me. As closely as I can recall Koch was explaining a rather esoteric point and the moderator kept asking for further clarification. Finally, Koch said, “I can explain it to you, but I can’t comprehend it for you.” One of the greatest lines I ever witnessed.

  • Kalamazoo

    A truly gifted and witty communicator. I remember reading once that someone was writing a biography on him and wanted an interview. Koch suspected that it was not going to be a friendly work and when the reporter asked him if he would cooperate, he replied “I won’t aid or assist you in any way.”

  • Thomas R.

    “My Jewish mayor teaches me how to be a better Christian.”
    There is a reason it’s called a Judeo-Christian ethic.