‘Worse Than Any Explosion I Witnessed in Vietnam’: The 1993 World Trade Center Bombing

World Trade Center 1993 attack
Photo by Port Authority Risk Management

Deb Kiner

pennlive.com

(MCT)

Sgt. Dan Carbonaro of the Port Authority Police was in the World Trade Center in New York in 1993 when a bomb went off.

He told the Staten Island Advance, “You couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. I was in Vietnam, and this was worse than any explosion I witnessed in Vietnam.”

At 12:17 p.m. on Feb. 26, 1993, a 1,200-pound bomb in a rented truck exploded in the parking garage of the North Tower, killing six people and injuring more than 1,000 others.

The explosion knocked out the World Trade Center’s power – which disabled the sprinklers, generators, elevators, public address system and the emergency command center.

The Staten Island Advance reported that thick smoke “sent tens of thousands of workers streaming out of the complex in Lower Manhattan.”

“Many of the victims their eyes tearing and their faces smeared with soot were gasping for air as they stumbled to waiting ambulances. Some had spent more than an hour making their way down smoke-filled stairwells.”

A massive fire erupted underneath the towers that a fire department spokesman told the Staten Island Advance was “the equivalent of a 16-alarm fire with more than 700 firefighters summoned.”

A firefighter from Manhattan Rescue Co. 1 told the newspaper when he arrived he “saw people still sitting in their cars in the destroyed garage, and couldn’t tell if they were alive or dead. ‘It was a mass of wreckage,’ Smith said. ‘I’ve never seen anything like it.’ He described walls caving in, slabs of concrete ripped from floors, and a giant crater created through several floors of the basement that a fellow firefighter fell into.”

According to the newspaper, “While firefighters searched for victims and fought for two hours to put out the blaze below ground, trapped office workers began to panic above. Some smashed windows not meant to open, sending showers of glass to the street below. Others, including hundreds of elementary school students on outings, were trapped in elevators with no word about what happened.” The students were trapped in the elevators for six hours.

In March 1994, terrorists Mohammad Salameh, Ahmad Ajaj, Nidal Ayyad and Mahmoud Abouhalima were convicted of the bombing and sentenced to 240 years in prison. Their sentences are later reduced to 100 years.

The man allegedly behind the plot to blow up the World Trade Center, Ramzi Ahmed Yousef was later captured, convicted and sentenced to 240 years in prison. The driver of the van, Eyad Ismoil also was captured, convicted and sentenced to 240 years in prison.

The FBI also uncovered plots to blow up the George Washington Bridge, the United Nations and other New York landmarks.

The attack also had a local connection. In 1993, the FBI raided the home of Kelvin E. Smith near New Bloomfield, Perry County, saying he allowed Muslim fundamentalists to receive military-type training at a public shooting range on his property.

While the three did fire weapons at Smith’s range, Smith said he had no idea who they were.

Smith had said he thought the men were mercenaries who planned to help the Muslims in Bosnia.

Smith pleaded guilty in September of 1999 to three counts of making false statements to the FBI and one count of destroying evidence – he dumped four semiautomatic assault rifles in the Delaware River. In 1999 he was sentenced to 366 days in prison.

At the time, the World Trade Center bombing was one of the worst terror attacks in United States. Eight years later on Sept. 11, 2001, the United States faced the worst when Al Qaeda terrorists hijacked airplanes and flew them into the World Trade Center, bringing down both towers and killing thousands of people.

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