“Worse than any explosion I have witnessed in Vietnam”: the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993
Sgt. Dan Carbonaro, of the Port Authority Police, was at New York’s World Trade Center 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 it was worse than any explosion I have witnessed in Vietnam.
At 12:17 p.m. on February 26, 1993, a 1,200-pound bomb in a rental truck exploded in the North Tower parking garage, killing six people and injuring over 1,000 others.
The explosion shut down the World Trade Center, disabling sprinklers, generators, elevators, the public address system, and the emergency command center.
The Staten Island Advance reported that thick smoke “sent tens of thousands of workers out of the Lower Manhattan compound.”
“Many of the victims whose eyes were tearing and their sooty faces were breathless as they made their way to the waiting ambulances. Some had spent more than an hour descending smoke-filled stairwells.
A massive fire erupted under the towers that a fire department spokesperson told Staten Island Advance was “the equivalent of a 16-alarm fire with more than 700 firefighters summoned.”
A Manhattan Rescue Co. 1 firefighter told the newspaper upon arrival that he “had seen 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 collapsing walls, concrete slabs ripped from the floors and a giant crater created across several floors of the basement into which a fellow firefighter fell.
According to the newspaper, “As firefighters searched for victims and fought for two hours to put out the fire underground, trapped office workers began to panic above. Some broken windows weren’t supposed to open, sending glass showers down the street below. Others, including hundreds of elementary school students on outings, were trapped in elevators without knowing anything 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 then 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 was also captured, convicted and sentenced to 240 years in prison.
The FBI has 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, in Perry County, saying he allowed Muslim fundamentalists to receive military-style training at a public shooting range on his property.
As the three fired guns within range of Smith, Smith said he had no idea who they were.
Smith had said he thought the men were mercenaries planning to help Muslims in Bosnia.
Smith pleaded guilty in September 1999 to three counts of misrepresenting the FBI and one count of destroying evidence – he threw four semi-automatic assault rifles into 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 terrorist attacks in the United States. Eight years later September 11, 2001, the United States faced the worst when Al Qaeda terrorists hijacked planes and airlifted them into the World Trade Center, bringing down both towers and killing thousands.