The world changed on September 11, 2001, when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center, forever altering America. Due to the violent impact the event had on the nation, it's possible to forget the first strike on New York's Twin Towers: the 1993 World Trade Center bombing (WTCB).
The first strike against the World Trade Center happened almost a decade prior to 2001, but the two plots are linked in several ways. The WTCB can be looked at as a sort of trial run to 9/11. The goal - to topple the Twin Towers - was the same, as was the motivation and international power behind it. In fact, some of the very same individuals who plotted the WTCB managed to maintain their freedom long enough to be involved in 9/11.
The 1993 WTCB was, for the most part, a failed operation, but it helped set the stage for the horror and destruction that would occur eight years later.
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An Uncle And A Nephew Were Involved In The 1993 WTCB And 9/11
One of the chief architects of the 1993 WTCB was Ramzi Yousef, who was captured in Pakistan and brought to the US to stand trial in 1995. Yousef's uncle, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, would help al Qaeda plan 9/11.
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed remained free until 2003, when the United States finally caught up with him.
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The Plan Was To Topple Both Towers
The ultimate plan in 1993 was to topple the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center. Only one tower, Tower 1, was targeted, but the culprits hoped the blast would topple it at such an angle as to knock over Tower 2. As the strike was aimed at the tower's foundation, it would have brought the towers down more quickly than in 2001.
This would have meant an even higher toll of life lost, but the plan was unsuccessful.
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One Conspirator Was Caught Upon Arrival In The US And Then Released
Some of the co-conspirators involved in the WTCB were caught before they had even perpetrated the crime. Ahmed Ajaj traveled to the United States from Pakistan with a forged Swedish passport and materials to craft incendiary devices in his bag. He was caught, but his apprehension served as a diversionary tactic to allow Ramzi Yousef, the primary bomber, to make it through security on the same flight.
Ironically, Yousef was caught for using a fake Iraqi passport, but he claimed political asylum upon apprehension. He was set free and given a future hearing date, allowing him the freedom to carry out the plan.
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The Bomber Explained His Actions And Demands In A Letter To Newspapers
Ramzi Yousef had a clear agenda in striking against the United States. He sent letters to a few prominent New York newspapers before the WTCB, outlining a series of demands if the Americans wanted to avoid further assaults.
Yousef wanted the United States to cut all ties with Israel, including aid and diplomatic relations, and to pledge to stop any and all interference in the affairs of the Middle East. Yousef referred to his plans as terrorism but noted that his actions were in response to "the terrorism that Israel practices."
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The Whole Plan Was Foiled By The Difficulty Of NYC Parking
The 1993 plot against the World Trade Center failed in its primary goal by something that all New Yorkers struggle with: parking. The yellow rental van housing the explosive device was driven to the WTC’s underground parking garage, but Yousef failed to park it close enough to the concrete foundations of Tower 1.
Had he found a closer parking spot, his plan may have succeeded. Instead, most of the damage was done to the parking garage itself. His plan an abject failure, Yousef escaped to Pakistan hours later.
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Smoke Was So Thick It Traveled To The 93rd Floor
Though the 1993 WTCB failed to bring down the Twin Towers, it was incredibly scary for those involved. The blast shook the entire building and caused mass panic inside. Smoke reached as high as the 93rd floor, and smoke inhalation was responsible for a large portion of the injuries received that day.
All power to the tower was cut, leaving several people stuck in elevators for hours, including a class of kindergartners.