World Trade Center Bombing-1993 Remembered

At 18 minutes after noon on February 26, 1993, a huge bomb went off beneath the two towers of the World Trade Center.

This was not a suicide attack. The terrorists parked a truck bomb with a timing device on Level B-2 of the underground garage, then departed. The ensuing explosion opened a hole seven stories up. Six people died. More than a thousand were injured.

An FBI agent at the scene described the relatively low number of fatalities as a miracle.Eight and one half years prior to the devastatingly fatal blows to the World Trade Center in New York, a Ryder truck carrying approximately 1,200 to 1,500 pounds of a homemade fertilizer-based explosive detonates at 12:18 in the afternoon.

The blast produced a crater stretching over 150 feet through five floors on the 26th of February 1993. Let it also be noted that this was the second anniversary of the ending of the first Gulf War. Initial reports suggested that the blast was the result of an exploded generator, but evidence gathered shortly thereafter suggested that it was clearly a malicious act that resulted in the injuries of over 1,000 people, and the deaths of six others.

1993 WTC Bombing


The mastermind behind this terrorist attack was Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, a previously sought criminal who was suspected for the formulation of criminal plots against Pope John Paul II, President Bill Clinton, and potentially fatal attacks against numerous flights in 1995. Yousef’s capture later that year lead to the discovery of al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden’s network of loosely tied Islamic militants. Yousef was convicted of the WTC bombing on November 12, 1997; however, a concrete analysis of the 1993 WTC attack must include an in depth examination of this figure, which will be discussed further.

On that fateful day in 1993, dispatcher Frank Raffa, of the FDNY, recalls the sentiment of the initial emergency phone call. “The working theory was that a transformer vault explosion had occurred in the basement of the World Trade Center Complex.”

However, as Raffa Writes, “Normally, when a fire or emergency occurs that generates numerous phone calls, the phones stop ringing once an apparatus arrives. This time the phones never stopped.” This was the sign that a major catastrophe was developing.” Such calls indicated that smoke spread through the first thirty-three floors of the WTC towers, as well as the Vista Hotel, within only three minutes. With such a mass volume of telephone calls from panicking personnel in need of immediate help, the incident command was divided into three zones, one for each affected building.

Even still, due to the sheer numbers of callers and absent the responders to field these calls, the acts of milling, rumors, and keynoting, the basic components to human interaction during a collective behavior situation, resulted in poor advice from certain actors and mediums. Such an event is described by Raffa:

“One of the newscasters went on the air and advised people in the towers that if they were having trouble breathing, they should break out the glass window. This was the worst thing they could have done. By now the entire tower was filled with smoke and was acting like a 110 story smokestack. About that time I answered a call from someone seeking instructions. By now, we were told to tell all callers to stay where they are, block all air vents with whatever rags they could find, stay calm, and wait. ”

“The caller told me he was going to break out a window. He was on the 54th floor. I advised him not to stating that there are over 500 emergency personnel on the ground and he’d kill someone with the falling debris. Not to mention the fact that the open window will allow smoke to enter the area and vent itself. He hung up and went to break the window. I advised the radio dispatcher to let the command post know to expect falling glass from the 54th floor. Later, the newscaster was “admonished” by his supervisors.”

The bombing was noted as having been the largest incident ever handled in the City of New York Fire Department’s 128-year history prior to September 11, 2001. In toll, based on the number of units that responded, the incident resulted in the equivalent of a 16-alarm fire.

On February 26, 1993, a 1,000-pound nitrourea bomb was detonated inside a rental van on the B2 level of the WTC parking garage, causing massive destruction that spanned seven levels, six below-grade. The L-shaped blast crater on B2 at its maximum measured 130 feet wide by 150 feet long.

The blast epicenter was under the northeast corner of the Vista Hotel

  • FDNY ultimately responded to the incident with;
  • 84 engine companies,
  • 60 truck companies,
  • 28 battalion chiefs,
  • 9 deputy chiefs,
  • 5 rescue companies and
  • 26 other special units (representing nearly 45 percent of the on-duty staff of FDNY)
  • The department units maintained a presence at the scene for 28 days
  • It is estimated that approximately 50,000 people were evacuated from the WTC complex over a course of eleven hours, including nearly 25,000 from each of the two towers
  • Six people died and 1,042 were injured.
  • Of those injured;
  • 15 received traumatic injuries from the blast itself
  • Nearly 20 people complained of cardiac problems, and nearly 30 pregnant women were rescued. Eighty-eight firefighters (one requiring hospitalization),
  • 35 police officers, and one EMS worker sustained injuries
  • Fire alarm dispatchers received more than 1,000 phone calls, most reporting victims trapped on the upper floors of the towers
  • Search and evacuation of the towers were finally completed some 11 hours after the incident began

Major structural damage to the buildings, absent the five-level crater, included partition walls blown out onto the PATH train mezzanine, damaged fire alarm and public address systems, as well as temporary termination of elevator service for several weeks.

There also resulted the almost complete termination of power to the complex, as primary circuitry was extensively damaged by the initial blast; in addition, water-cooled emergency generators shut down as a result of overheating when water supply was cut, thus disabling building-wide emergency lighting.


The 16-acre World Trade Center site was bounded by Vesey Street to the north, Church Street to the east, Liberty Street to the south, and West Street to the west. Seven buildings (1 WTC through 7 WTC) were situated around a five-acre plaza. The complex included also the Port Authority-Trans-Hudson (PATH) and Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) WTC stations and Concourse areas. Underneath a sizable portion of the main WTC Plaza and 1 WTC, 2 WTC, 3 WTC, and 6 WTC was a six-story subterranean structure.The WTC complex was designed by Minoru Yamasaki and Associates of Troy, Michigan; Emery Roth and Sons of New York acted as the architect of record. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PA) was the original developer. Excavation of the site began in August 1966. The complex, which offered about 12 million square feet of rentable floor space, was occupied by various government and commercial tenants. The PA had transferred the entire WTC project to a private individual, under a 99-year capital lease, prior to 9-11.The seven complex buildings included the following:

  1. WTC, the 110-story North Tower. Its first tenant took occupancy in December 1970.
  2. WTC, the 110-story South Tower. Occupancy commenced in January 1972.
  3. WTC , the 22-story Marriott Hotel (west of the South Tower).
  4. WTC, a nine-story office building.
  5. WTC, a nine-story office building.
  6. WTC, the eight-story U.S. Customs House building.
  7. WTC, a 47-story office building (north of the WTC site; it housed the New York City Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management facility).

The World Financial Center (WFC) complex, built in the early 1980s, was to the west, across West Street. To the south were the building designed by Cass Gilbert, at 90 West Street, and the Bankers Trust building at 130 Liberty Street. The 1 Liberty Plaza building was to the east and the Verizon building directly to the north.

Who would have imagined in 1993 what events would unfold in 2001 at the WTC complex and for the nation….

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