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20 years ago, a bomb killed six people at the World Trade Center

February 26, 2013|By Matt Pearce
  • Roses lay at the memorial site after a ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
Roses lay at the memorial site after a ceremony marking the 20th anniversary… (Andrew Burton / Getty Images )

Remember this date: Feb. 26, 1993. Twenty years ago on Tuesday, six people died in a terrorist attack at the World Trade Center in New York.

Anniversaries are important, for they help set tragedies apart. The philosopher Walter Benjamin once said what some New Yorkers now know intimately, that the angel of history sees only a single catastrophe when looking backward, a ceaseless accumulation of rubble -- a lofty poeticism that achieved dreadful literality at the World Trade Center.

Twenty years ago, a truck bomb detonated in the building's basement garage.

The victim's names were John DiGiovanni, Robert Kirkpatrick, Stephen Knapp, William Macko, Wilfred Mercado and Monica Rodriguez Smith. Smith was pregnant.

The bomb generated so much physical force that it created a five-story crater and wounded more than 1,000 people; the blast also generated so much emotional force that officials erected a granite memorial -- a fountain -- bearing the victims' names.

Then tragedies merged, politically and physically.

The granite disintegrated on Sept. 11, 2001 -- crushed by the airborne arrival of what some consider the '93 bombing's bigger, uglier younger brother.

After the 9/11 airliner attacks, searchers recovered a little fragment inscribed inscribed "mem John D.," for DiGiovanni. It was all that was left of the 1993 memorial. Every year, on Feb. 26, they show the fragment at a church two blocks from the center.

"The press recently has been saying the same thing -- that those families had a double loss: They lost their family members and now they lost the memorial to them," the memorial's artist, Elyn Zimmerman, said in a 2002 talk. "What occurs to me is that you can build a lot of stone memorials, and if people are determined, they'll be destroyed along with everything else."

Wahed Moharam still remembers, still says the bombing destroyed his life.

One of his employees, Mahmud Abouhalima, helped pull off the 1993 attack. Moharam, a former Egyptian soldier turned New Jersey limo company owner, testified to help put Abouhalima away and was spirited into witness protection.

"Twenty years ago, when I did what I did, they were telling me the president wants to shake your hand, thank you in person, Bill Clinton wants to shake my hand," Moharam says.

Twenty years later, he's fallen out of witness protection and onto a terrorist watch list; he was recently erroneously accused of making a bomb threat. On the 20th anniversary of the bombing, he's living out of a hotel in Independence, Mo.

"I have all the memories, just like it happened yesterday," Moharam recalls.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a statement Tuesday extending condolences to the 1993 victims "and affirming our commitment to never forget those who perished."

"Our efforts to rebuild at the World Trade Center site demonstrate the strength and resilience of all New Yorkers to the world," Cuomo said.

The National September 11 Memorial & Museum also had a moment of silence to remember the 1993 victims.

They gathered at the 9/11 Memorial plaza, a place named for a different tragedy. On a memorial, the six names join 2,977 others.

They share a space.

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matt.pearce@latimes.com

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