Editor’s Note: The first Al Qaeda attack on the American homeland was the February 26, 1993 bombing at The World Trade Center, a complex owned and operated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. This attack killed six people and injured more than a thousand. It also traumatized millions of people in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area.
Even though this was the most destructive bomb attack suffered by American civilians in a time of peace, it took more than 10 years for authorities at all levels of government to admit that America had been attacked by terrorists who were encouraged and protected by foreign nations. It took just as long to admit that the organization that was responsible for 9/11 was also responsible for the 1993 attack.
Patrick Campbell was in the lobby of the NorthTower when the bomb exploded in the basement 20 feet below him. A marketing manager for the Port Authority, Campbell describes the chaos that enveloped the Trade Center in the aftermath of the explosion and the many questions that still haunt him about this terrible day.
At approximately 11:30 a.m., a Ryder van rolled at a leisurely pace northwards on West Street in Lower Manhattan towards the underground parking garage at the World Trade Center, located on West and Vesey streets. Eyad Ismoil was at the wheel and Ramzi Yousef, the terrorist leader, sat beside him. Following the van in a red getaway car was Mohammed Salameh and Mahmud Abouhalima, with Abouhalima at the wheel.
The four men were part of an Al Qaeda terrorist cell based in Jersey City, New Jersey, and they were now completing a mission that they had been working on for the previous five months. Yousef is a nephew of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the Al Qaeda leader who planned the 9/11 attack.
The van entered the World Trade Center parking garage and Abouhalima continued to drive the red getaway car for half a block and then turned right into Vesey Street, which is the northern boundary of the World Trade Center site. Vesey Street is a very wide street and Abouhalima had no problem double parking while he waited for Yousef and Ismoil to emerge from the garage.
The garage seemed empty as the van arrived on the second level below the street [the Basement 2 level], but for a moment Yousef thought they had a problem when he saw a Port Authority van, the same size and color as the Ryder van, parked in the spot previously selected by Yousef to park the Ryder van. However, the Port Authority van suddenly started up and headed off towards the exit, and Ismoil swung the Ryder van in and took its place.
While Ismoil kept an eye out, Yousef lit four fuses, three of which were back-ups in case the first one failed, and then he closed and locked the back of the van, while Ismoil locked the front doors, and both then strolled across the garage to the elevators servicing the North Tower lobby. When they arrived in the lobby they exited through the West Street entrance and within four minute of lighting the fuse they were in Abouhalima’s getaway car and were speeding away from the World Trade Center. The fuse would burn for another seven minutes and then the bomb would explode. By this time, the terrorists were in the Holland Tunnel on their way to Jersey City.