Twenty years ago today, at 12:18 p.m., a 1,500 pound homemade bomb exploded in the basement of the World Trade Center, killing six people and an unborn child.
John DiGiovanni, 45 years old, was a dental sales representative who was parking his car in the garage to visit a client that day. Wilfredo Mercado, 37, was a purchasing agent for the Windows on the World restaurant at the top of the World Trade Center, and was checking on the day’s deliveries on basement level 2. Robert Kirkpatrick, 61, Stephen A. Knapp, 47, and William Macko, 57, were mechanical and maintenance supervisors for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and were eating lunch together in an office on B-2. Monica Smith, 35 and seven months pregnant, was a secretary for the mechanical unit of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and was reviewing timesheets in her office next door. February 26th was her last day of work before going on maternity leave.
A granite memorial fountain honoring the victims was dedicated in 1995 on the World Trade Center Plaza, directly above the site of the explosion, with an inscription that read: “On February 26, 1993, a bomb set by terrorists exploded below this site. This horrible act of violence killed innocent people, injured thousands, and made victims of us all.”
The fountain was destroyed along with the rest of the World Trade Center during the attacks of September 11, 2001. However, the lessons learned from the 1993 bombing and its aftermath are credited with saving many lives in the second terrorist attack on the World Trade Center eight years later.
The bomb was planted under a corner of the North Tower with the intention of causing it to collapse into the South Tower. This did not occur, but the bomb did cause numerous fires, the smoke from which quickly rose up through both towers, which housed over 60,000 workers and visitors at the time, including groups of elementary school children on the South Tower observation deck. The thick smoke made evacuation extremely difficult and caused thousands of smoke inhalation injuries and problems. Hundreds were trapped for hours in elevators and offices, including a group of kindergartners who were trapped in an elevator for more than five hours. The attack was met by a heroic rescue effort from hundreds of first responders from the FDNY, the NYPD, and the PAPD that lasted almost 10 hours before the danger had past and all who could be were considered safe.
The explosion caused a crater larger in size than half a football field, and blew through five basement levels, causing each to collapse on the next. The World Trade Center complex remained structurally sound after the explosion but all power to the complex was lost which also resulted in the loss of television transmission capability for many NYC-area stations for a week. Repairs took months to complete.
Eventually, six individuals were tried and convicted in the attack with all receiving sentences of life imprisonment.
The 1993 victims are remembered on panel N-73 of the 9/11 Memorial. The 9/11 Memorial will observe a moment of silence today at 12:18 p.m., the moment that the attack occurred. The 9/11 Tribute Center will be open to receive all visitors who wish to be present for this special anniversary; family members in particular are welcome at the Center.
Join us in remembering John DiGiovanni, Robert Kirkpatrick, Stephen A. Knapp, William Macko, Wilfredo Mercado, Monica Rodriguez Smith and her unborn child. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families today, and every day.
The Tribute Family