World Trade Center Bombing Resonates 20 Years Later


PETER GOLDMARK: Former executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (1977 to 1985).

Peter Goldmark had left the Port Authority years before, but said his "heart went cold" when he learned about the 1993 bombings.

Despite having left his position with the Port Authority years before the 1993 bombing, Peter Goldmark said the effects still linger.

"It was a big part of my life and it was a big thing in my professional life," Goldmark said of the bombing. "It was big because terrorism was not a fact of life in the 1980s the way it is now."

While Goldmark was no longer with the Port Authority by 1993, he had put forward an antiterrorism task force during his tenure at the transportation agency as a result of his growing concern about terrorist threats.

"Occasionally, in my job at the Port Authority, I'd have a coffee with law enforcement officials," he said. "I asked one of them once, 'I'm just curious, of all the terrorist threats we get in the United States, how many are in New York?'"

"He choked and said half," Goldmark said. "I said, 'If half of your threats are in the New York area, of all the threats you receive in the United States, I'm going to guess a lot of them are at Port Authority facilities.'"

Goldmark, 72, said the official looked at him and nodded.

"This was like a thunderbolt because we had never focused on that," he said."The Port Authority had its own police force, but we had not focused on the terrorist threat."

As a result, Goldmark said, he set up a task force to look into terrorist threats at the tail end of his time in office. But his antiterrorist initiatives, which included shutting down the parking in the World Trade Center, were dismantled by his successor "for reasons I've never been clear on," he said.

"One of the things we recommended and were going to do would have prevented the '93 bombings," Goldmark said.

"There was no check or searching or examination of people parking under the World Trade Center," he said. "You and I could have driven a truck full of dynamite into the parking lot of the World Trade Center, and that's exactly what [the terrorists] did."

Goldmark, who in 1993 was running the Rockefeller Foundation, said his "heart went cold" when he learned about the bombing 20 years ago.

But it wasn't until 12 years later that he faced the Port Authority and the victims' families during the 2005 trial to determine whether the transportation agency should be held liable for the tragedy that took six lives and injured 1,042 others.

"This is a huge issue, terrorism," Goldmark said. "And so we're talking about defending American institutions and facilities and lives."

His testimony focused on a report his task force, the Office of Special Planning, had put together after a meeting with British experts at Scotland Yard.

"We recommended a lot of things, and they did a lot of them, but they didn't put inspection on the parking in the World Trade Center.

"Normally [in court cases in the past], I was defending what [the Port Authority] had done, but on this one, by giving an honest accounting on the record, I was demonstrating that your obligation to tell the truth has to rank higher than any instinctive defense of the agency you're leading," he said.

Goldmark said during the trial, he found it "very moving to see the relatives of those who had died."

"Facing the jurors, trying to explain a story that had been secret for years," he said. "Why it was secret, I don't know the answer to that."

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