February 26, 1993
The first attack on the World Trade Center
Marking the 23rd anniversary of the first bombing of the World Trade Center on February 26, 1993, the 9/11 Tribute Center has created a new online exhibit that explores the physical and emotional toll of this historic event. Following the mission of the 9/11 Tribute Center, to collect and share the personal experiences of “those who were there,” we are so pleased to share this intimate and revealing group of stories of Feb 26, 1993, revealing the experiences of several survivors and first responders. Stories have also been organized into thematic videos exploring: tenant evacuation, how people helped each other, feelings about terrorism in 1993, and improvements made as a result of 1993.
Brief history of first attack, Feb. 26, 1993
On February 26, 1993, four terrorists rented a van filled it with explosives, drove it into the basement of the World Trade Center and detonated it in an attempt to bring down both towers. The bomb caused numerous fires and thick smoke that made the evacuation extremely difficult.
On the day of the first WTC attack, hundreds of first responders from the FDNY, NYPD and PAPD evacuated approximately 50,000 people from the complex in a rescue that took more than 11 hours. People walked down the many flights of stairs unaware of the exact cause of the problem, but when they got out they realized they were covered by a thin film of residue. “When the bomb exploded it started all sorts of cars on fire down in the garage. That’s what all the smoke was from,” recalled now retired firefighter Al Schwartz.
Immediately a dedicated team of engineers from the Port Authority began working to repair the 6-story deep crater under the complex. They worked day and night with people in the construction trades to get the buildings open again for business in just 3 weeks’ time. “Just like after 9/11, there were a lot of people who wanted to work down there, it was a patriotic effort. That’s what the spirit was in ’93,” remembers Alan Reiss who was then Supervising Engineer for the Port Authority of NY and NJ.
Survivors and first responders of the 1993 attacks assert that their experiences on February 26, 1993 helped guide the decisions they made on September 11, 2001. “After ’93 our whole mentality changed and security measures changed,” recollected Peter Rinaldi who was also on the engineering staff of the Port Authority, “They put battery packed operated emergency lighting in every stairwell.” The safety improvements and safety procedures are credited with helping thousands of people evacuate the building more easily in 2001.
A massive FBI investigation followed in coordination with the New York Joint Terrorism Task Force. On March 4, 1993 an FBI SWAT team arrested the first suspect and shortly after three more suspects were arrested. All four men were tried, convicted, and sentenced to life. The mastermind of the World Trade Center bombing, Ramzi Yousef, was captured in Pakistan in February 1995, along with the driver of the van. Both men were returned to America, and convicted.
Today, the names of the victims that died during this attack can be found along the North Tower 9/11 Memorial Pool, a reminder that the attacks of September 11, 2001 and February 26, 1993 are forever linked. We will remember and honor the memory of Robert Kirkpatrick, 61, Stephen Knapp, 47, William Macko, 57, John DiGiovanni, 45, Wilfredo Mercado, 37 and Monica Rodriguez Smith, 35, and her unborn child who were killed.
Related sources to learn more:
February 26, 1993 – World Trade Center Bombing
9/11 Tribute Center shares personal stories related to this first attack on the World Trade Center. Learn more >>
On This Day, The New York Times
On This Day allows access to archived transcripts of New York Times coverage from a particular day. Read a copy of the original coverage of the attack on February 26, 1993. Learn more >>
World Trade Center Bombing 1993, 9/11 Memorial Museum
The 9/11 Memorial Museum details information on the attack of February 26, 1993. Learn more >>