…John Lennon a pop star, a rock star, a guru and many more things aswell.
Whilst paying my respects to those who lost their lives and had their lives altered forever I thought it a poignant time to reflect on how near I came personally to the loss of my own life through a related terrorist attack.
The date was february 26th, 1993, I was visiting New York for the first time with colleagues from Swindon College of Art during my Illustration Education. As a group we had left Manhattan Island and travelled over to Brooklyn. Our journey back was by foot over the Brooklyn Bridge and I was in absolute awe of the architecture, engineering and sheer scale of the structure. I was taking lots of photographs and staring up. My friends and lecturers were already at the other side waiting for me when we heard an almighty BANG!, a noise like I had never heard before. The bridge physically shook and I then made the rest of my way quite hurriedly to meet them. It took 5 minutes to get to them such is the scale of the bridge. Once we all met up after a quick “Did you hear that” conversation we made the rest of our way to our next destination – the Twin Towers. It took 5 minutes to get there from the bridge – what a freaky coincidence. I don’t really have to say much more. I just feel very lucky that I took that extra time because if we were all together, then that 5 minutes wouldn’t have been there and we would have been on the site. As a result of that needless to say we didn’t know what was going on, we didn’t know what all the commotion was and really had no thoughts of terrorist attacks. It wasn’t until much later that we found out exactly what had happened.
I know it’s not quite the same, but I do feel therefore a sense of connection to what happened on this day 10 years ago and like many others watching it happen on live television around the world on that day was overcome with emotion and am still totally shocked when I see pictures on the TV and in the press.
My thoughts are with all families directly affected and those indirectly affected.
Text from the NYT Newspaper article 27th February, 1993:
Blast Hits Trade Center, Bomb Suspected; 5 Killed, Thousands Flee Smoke in Towers
Many Are Trapped for Hours in Darkness and Confusion
By Robert D. McFadden
An explosion apparently caused by a car bomb in an underground garage shook the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan with the force of a small earthquake shortly after noon yesterday, collapsing walls and floors, igniting fires and plunging the city’s largest building complex into a maelstrom of smoke, darkness and fearful chaos.
The police said the blast killed at least five people and left more than 650 others injured, mostly with smoke inhalation or minor burns, but dozens with cuts, bruises, broken bones or serious burns. The police said 476 were treated at hospitals and the rest by rescue and medical crews at the scene.
The explosion also trapped hundreds of people in debris or in smoke-filled stairwells and elevators of the towers overhead and forced the evacuation of more than 50,000 workers from a trade center bereft of power for lights and elevators for seven hours.
No Bomb Fragments Found
The blast, which was felt throughout the Wall Street area and a mile away on Ellis and Liberty Islands in New York Harbor, also knocked out the police command and operations centers for the towers, which officials said rendered the office complex’s evacuation plans useless.
James Fox, an assistant director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in charge of the agency’s New York office, said that no bomb fragments were found but that a joint terrorist task force of Federal agents and city detectives had examined the wreckage and believed that a car bomb had caused the explosion.
There was no warning of an impending explosion, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said. Jack Killorin, a spokesman in Washington for the Treasury Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, said that after the blast, authorities received at least nine telephone calls claiming responsibility.
Mr. Killorin said the first call was made 15 minutes after the blast to a non-emergency number of a New York Police Department precinct by an individual who mentioned the conflict in Bosnia. He said other claims were made between an hour and several hours after the event by callers who cited that and a variety of other reasons for the attack. He declined to elaborate.
Some law-enforcement officials said an explosion of such size, without a claim of responsibility in advance, might suggest that it went off accidentally.
Mr. Kelly was more oblique about the cause of the blast, saying only that a car bomb or other type of explosive device was not being ruled out.
Four hours after the explosion, a bomb threat forced the evacuation of the Empire State Building in midtown Manhattan, and there were numerous other bomb threats in the city, the police said. But it was unclear if any were related to the World Trade Center explosion or only the macabre work of pranksters.
As the day ended, a series of investigations began — into the cause of the explosion and its possible perpetrators, and into what went wrong in what many called a botched evacuation, with no alarms and no instructions for thousands caught in dark, smoky stairwells, in stark contrast to carefully laid plans.
Mayor David N. Dinkins, visiting in Osaka, Japan, was notified by City Hall and, in a telephone news conference, called the Fire Department response the largest for any non-natural disaster in the city’s history. He said he had spoken with President Clinton and had thanked him for the cooperation of Federal investigators.
The effects of the blast radiated outward, disrupting most non-cable television transmissions throughout the metropolitan area, halting traffic in most of lower Manhattan and PATH train service under the Hudson River from the trade center to New Jersey, and transforming an ordinary Friday in the financial district into an afternoon of turmoil, death and destruction.
On a day of high drama, tragedy and heroism, there were a thousand stories: rescuers digging frantically for victims in the collapsed PATH station under the towers, soot-streaked evacuees groping for hours in the city’s tallest buildings, a woman in a wheelchair carried down 66 stories by two friends, a pregnant woman airlifted by helicopter from a tower roof, and the tales of many others stumbling out, gasping for air, terrified but glad to be alive.
And among the most poignant was that of a class of kindergartners from Public School 95 in Gravesend, Brooklyn. Caught on the 107th floor observatory, they took all day to walk down, singing to keep up their spirits.
Many of those who walked down scores of flights from the upper reaches of the trade center towers said there had been no alarm bells and no instructions from building personnel or emergency workers. While little panic was reported, witnesses said confusion reigned in the darkness of crowded stairwells where smoke billowed and unknown dangers lurked below.
Many put moist towels or handkerchiefs to their faces against the smoke. Others, frightened, remained in their offices, hoping for rescue. As smoke seeped in under the doors, some broke windows to get air. Dozens of people, meantime, were trapped for hours in elevators frozen between floors, among them another class of kindergartners from P.S. 95.
The worst fires were extinguished by midafternoon. By then extensive efforts to assist those caught on the upper floors were already well underway. But the trade center, with 250 elevators and miles of corridors and stairways, posed a major challenge and long after dark last night rescue workers continued to search the labyrinth for stragglers and others still trying to get out.
On a day of confusion, the police and the Emergency Medical Service repeatedly revised the number of people killed by the blast. By early evening the police said five had been killed while the medical service said seven were dead. Several hours later the police increased the number to seven, but shortly after 11 P.M., the police scaled back the figure to five, saying they could not confirm the medical service’s report of seven fatalities. There was no clear explanation for the discrepancies.
The blast, which erupted at 12:18 P.M. on the second level of a four-story underground parking garage beneath the trade center’s 110-story twin towers and the complex’s Vista Hotel, sent cars hurtling like toys, blew out a 100-foot wall and sent the floor collapsing down several stories, creating a crater 60 feet wide that reached deep into the bowels of the parking complex.
‘Everything Was on Fire’
It also collapsed the ceiling of a mezzanine in the adjacent Port Authority Trans-Hudson train station, leaving dozens trapped under rubble on a concourse one floor above the platforms where hundreds awaited trains. Witnesses and rescue workers told of a blast of incredible force — of bodies hurtling through the air, of cars wrapped around pillars, of people burning and scores trapped.
‘We crawled under pipes when we arrived and everything was on fire,’ said Edward Bergen, a 38-year-old firefighter who was one of the first to reach the scene of the blast. ‘Suddenly, a guy came walking out of the flames, like one of those zombies in the movie, ‘The Night of the Living Dead.’ His flesh was hanging off. He was a middle-aged man.’
Fire Capt. Timothy Dowling, of Engine Company 6, recalled a ghastly scene of fires lapping in the darkness, illuminating a smoking hell of twisted cars and broken concrete. ‘It looked like a bomb had exploded because of the amount of fire and damage to the floors. All we could do was put water on the flames.’
‘The Dust Was Blinding’
Ken Olson, 34, a pipefitter, was in the basement when the explosion hit. ‘All of a sudden all hell broke loose,’ he said. ‘All the pipes ruptured, the dust was blinding. Luckily we all stayed together and got out.’
Nearby, Vito de Leo, 32, an air-conditioning mechanic, was eating lunch at his desk with other basement trade center workers. Suddenly, the desk rose up, came down and landed on top of him. But its well protected him from a rain of falling debris. ‘The furniture collapsed, the walls collapsed, the ceiling collapsed,’ he said. ‘There was total blackness. I thought I was dead.’
Later, wading through knee-deep water amid gas pipelines danging overhead in the garage, a cadre of firefighters, police officers and other rescue workers found two bodies in a lunchroom used by mechanics, another body in the mangled wreckage of a car, and more victims under the debris in the garage.
The five victims — three men, one woman and one unidentified — were all believed to heve been killed by the blast. They were not immediately identified but the Port Authority said that they were all believed to be authority workers or people working under contract to the agency. The authorities said that more bodies might be found in the rubble as the search went on.
The police said 420 workers and visitors at the trade center were treated at hospitals, along with 44 firefighters, 11 police officers and one Emergency Medical Service worker.
Meantime, as several fires erupted around the scene of the explosion, heavy smoke billowed up through the corridors, elevator shafts and stairwells of the trade center. Because of the time, shortly after noon, many workers were at lunch at nearby restaurants or at fast-food outlets on the ground floor, from where they easily escaped.
But the police estimated that as many as 50,000 people — workers, tourists and other visitors were still in the building, many of them trapped on the highest floors — and it was not merely the blast that shook the entire complex, not merely the growing volumes of smoke pouring upward, that frightened them.
Darkness and the unknown perils that awaited them below added to the fears. Much of the power to the trade center had been knocked out by the blast — Consolidated Edison said four of its eight feeder cables to the center were shut down.
And within an hour, at the request of the Fire Department, which was trying to protect rescue workers and firefighters in dangerous areas, all power to the trade center was shut off by Con Edison, as well as natural gas and steam to the complex, which houses thousands of offices in six buildings bounded by Church, West, Liberty and Vesey Streets.
Pat Richardi, a Con Edison spokeswoman, said that no hazardous materials, such as polychlorinated biphenals, were in any of the transformers or cables of the trade center, which was completed 22 years ago.
Many of the people climbing down stairs told of having to stop frequently because of panic below; some let pregnant women and old people go through; some nearly passed out with exhaustion; others told of tense minutes in which they sat down on the steps, trying to regain breath in stifling, smoky air.
‘It was like sardines, cattle, a herd,’ said Larry Bianculli, 31, of Hicksville, L.I., who walked down 104 floors with his wool scarf over his sooty face.
Sherri Chambers, 21, a bank employee, said it took her two and a half hours to descend from the 60th floor. ‘You couldn’t even see it was so smoky,’ she said. ‘I kept wanting to sit down, but I didn’t because if I sat down I thought I wouldn’t get up. Firefighter Bill Chupa, 40, of Ladder 20, said many people were trapped in elevators and screaming for help. He said firefighters broke open elevator doors and found people in groups of 8 or 10, lying in darkness on the floor to escape the smoke.
After freeing those in elevators, the rescuers turned to the stairwells and began escorting people down. By midafternoon, there was a steady stream of survivors coming from the towers, many with faces blackened by smoke and gasping for air.
Some of the most spectacular evacuations came when police helicopters landed on the roofs of the trade center towers and carried away 23 people, including a pregnant woman.
Don Burke, who works for the Port Authority on the 66th floor, ran back to his office when he discovered there was a fire and, with a colleague, carried Cathy Collins, a lawyer who uses a wheelchair, to safety in relays.
In a shopping area on the ground floor of the trade center’s World Financial Center at 250 Vesey Street, medical and rescue workers set up a triage area of folding chairs, oxygen tanks, blood pressure devices, blankets and other medical aids.
While there was little panic, aides to Gov. Mario M. Cuomo told of a pregnant woman screaming as they descended from the Governor’s 57th floor offices in a chaos of darkness and disorder.
The Governor, who was in Albany, said President Clinton had called him to express concern and offer aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Mr. Cuomo also raised some questions: ‘What emergency devices were available? Did they work? Why were there no lights? Why were there no public announcements. The Port Authority will be called upon to answer, and I’m sure they will.’
Power was partly restored to the trade center towers at 7:20 P.M., and by 9:30 rescue workers said everyone had been evacuated.
The ceiling collapse in the PATH station forced a halt to all train service to New Jersey from the trade center, but PATH service from midtown, operating on another line, continued to operate through the day. Subway trains were rerouted and continued to run, but streets throughout the area were closed to clear the way for emergency vehicles. These New York Times reporters and photographers contributed to the coverage of the explosion at the World Trade Center:
Ralph Blumenthal, Fred R. Conrad, Celia W. Dugger, Seth Faison, Ian Fisher, Lindsey Gruson, Dennis Hevesi, Lynette Holloway, Marvine Howe, Edward Keating, Clifford J. Levy, James C. McKinley Jr., Steven Lee Myers, Alison Mitchell, Maria Newman, Larry Olmstead, Garry Pierre-Pierre, Todd S. Purdum, Dith Pran, Selwyn Raab, Lynda Richardson, Calvin Sims, Ronald Sullivan, Ruby Washington, Craig Wolff.