WTC Bombing Ended Age of Innocence

The Associated Press
Sunday, February 17, 2008; 10:18 AM

NEW YORK -- The 1993 World Trade Center bombing left a giant crater in the basement of the 110-story twin towers and an even larger hole in the nation's sense of security.

With the 15th anniversary approaching, the days before the bomb blast appear to mark the last time when millions of Americans went about their business, unaware of the dangers posed by international terrorism.

"Not an awful lot of people thought about how vulnerable we were," recalled Joseph Guccione, the U.S. marshal for New York. "It was a terrible lesson that was learned."

Lower Manhattan tried to armor itself _ only to learn the limits of protection just eight years later.

All the steel barriers, restricted access, closed streets, security gates and gun-toting security guards that tens of millions of dollars could buy could not stop the two hijacked airliners that brought down the trade center.

Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, security has been ramped up even more across Manhattan. More guards. More barriers. Higher fences. More video cameras.

Yet millions of Americans live in fear of another terrorist attack, with the anxiety particularly strong in Washington and New York, the two cities hit on Sept. 11.

All of it can arguably be traced back to Feb. 26, 1993, when a homemade bomb mixed by a group of men in Jersey City, N.J., was carried into the trade center garage in a yellow van and exploded shortly after noon, killing six people.

More than 1,000 people were injured fleeing the buildings on that cold dreary day. With the electricity knocked out, the buildings stood in darkness that night for the first time since they were built two decades earlier.

Weeks later, authorities infiltrated a group of Islamic militants who were followers of Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, the spiritual leader of the trade center bombers, and learned that a plot was being developed to blow up five landmarks in Manhattan in the summer of 1993.

As the years passed, more plots were unraveled.

By 1995, investigators had focused their sights on Osama bin Laden; separately, plans to blow up a dozen airliners headed to the U.S. from the Far East were discovered in a Philippines apartment where Ramzi Yousef, mastermind of the 1993 trade center attack, lived.

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