World Trade Center Bombing Resonates 20 Years Later

Overshadowed by 9/11, the 1993 World Trade Center bombing took six lives.

ByABC News
February 21, 2013, 5:52 PM

Feb. 26, 2013— -- Edward Smith remembers vividly the call from the morgue 20 years ago today, that his pregnant wife had died in the World Trade Center bombing hours before she was supposed to start her maternity leave.

"It seems like kind of yesterday sometimes," he told ABC News, "but it seems like a long time ago, too."

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the 1993 WTC bombing, which was overshadowed eight years later by the 9/11 attacks. Six people died and about 1,000 were injured after terrorists detonated a truck bomb in the parking garage of the World Trade Center's North Tower Feb. 26, 1993.

Four of the six killed -- Robert Kirkpatrick, 61, Stephen A. Knapp, 47, William Macko, 57, and Monica Rodriguez Smith, 35 -- were employees of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owned the buildings. John DiGiovanni, 45, a dental-supply salesman visiting the World Trade Center, and Wilfredo Mercado, 37, a purchasing agent for Windows on the World restaurant, also died.

To commemorate the event, ABC News spoke with several people affected by the bombing -- a widower, a former Port Authority executive director, a plaintiff's attorney and a jury foreman -- to illustrate how the bombing resonates 20 years later.

EDWARD SMITH: Husband of pregnant Monica Rodriguez Smith, who died in the bombing.

Edward Smith, 50, remembers where he was Feb. 26, 1993, when he heard the news.

"I was up in Boston, and I had heard there was a fire at the [World] Trade Center," Smith told last week. "I turned the TV on, and eventually heard there was an actual bombing, and drove down as quickly as I could."

Smith said he couldn't reach his wife, Monica Rodriguez Smith, a secretary for a mechanical supervisor for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey who worked in the World Trade Center, for "hours and hours."

He said he didn't hear from her or anything about her until he contacted the New York City morgue at 11:30 p.m. that evening.

"Obviously, I was informed that I should come there," Smith said.

He and his wife had been married for a little more than three years, he said, and Feb. 26 was to be Monica's last day of work before she went on maternity leave. They were expecting their first child, a boy, to be named Eddie.

"She had worked at the Port Authority for at least 12 years," Smith said. "And she had just gotten an award for never having a sick day. That was a little thing you remember."

Smith said the World Trade Center was where he met his wife the first time.

"I was a sales guy, selling to the Port Authority, and she was the admin [secretary] for one of the guys," he said. "For the first two years, she wouldn't go out with me.

"She said, 'Do you know how many knuckleheads come in here and ask me out? What makes you different?'" Smith recalled Monica's saying.

It took her two years to go out on a date with him, Smith said.

The couple tied the knot Aug. 31, 1990. Smith said he even bought the house in which he grew up on Long Island to raise their family.

But after the events of Feb. 26, 1993, Smith said, it was hard to stay in New York. Shortly after the bombing, he moved to Arizona and later to California.

"There were too many reminders, it was too much," he said.

Smith now resides in Phoenix, but makes a trip to New York every year for the memorial in February. This year is no exception.

"It's kind of an interesting feeling," he said of the 20-year anniversary. "It seems like kind of yesterday sometimes, but it seems like a long time ago, too."

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."

Alan Nelson, shown in this photo, served as the jury foreman in the 2005 lawsuit against the Port Authority.

Alan Nelson's recollection of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing is closely tied to the 2005 trial that he watched unfold from the jury box.

"It was by far the most complicated [trial] and there was a lot of interest to it, of course, because it connected directly to historical events," Nelson said.

"What happened was there was a lot of discussion in generalities about the number injured, where they were, things like that," he said. "There wasn't as if [the victims] were given names and personalities and situations because it wasn't really targeted.

"I remember one of the key facts for us was the fact that they allowed people to use [the World Trade Center underground garage] as a general traffic turn at the bottom of the West Side Highway," he said.

"Anyone could literally turn around in there and go back out. It was a little shocking that that was allowed."

Nelson said he remembers he was at home on the Lower East Side in New York when the Feb. 26 bombing occurred.

"From the Port Authority's point of view, their attempts to make it seem like that none of this would have struck anyone as odd because 9/11 hadn't occurred yet," he said. "I felt that the laxness was pretty extreme, even given the circumstances.

"I feel some real sympathy for the individuals, even if we didn't meet them," he said.

David Dean was the lead attorney for more than 400 plaintiffs in the 2005 suit against Port Authority in the wake of 1993 World Trade Center bombings.

David Dean said he didn't remember where he was the day of the 1993 bombing, but the event would later become a significant professional milestone for him.

"It saddens me to think about," Dean said. "And also to think that the loss of those lives and the damage to the hundreds of people was understandably forgotten because of the catastrophe a few years later.

'While we think about the damages to the World Trade Center, we really think about 9/11, and not remember that the earlier and perhaps the warning sign were the events of February 1993," he said.

Dean, 77, represented 450 victims in the case against the transportation authority, and said it was a privilege to try the case on their and their families' behalf.

"The major players were the families of the people who died and the people who were injured," he said. "They are the ones who have to be honored."

But Dean said "there were other people involved who completely disregarded their own warnings," and called the Port Authority's decision to disregard Goldmark's earlier report as arrogant.

"That was the impact we seized upon to motivate the jury," he said.

He said he remembers the trial as if it were yesterday.

"It was an important part of my trial life," he said. "It was an important case, and I respect that memory."