‘He had a vision of 250,000 casualties’: Why the WTC bombing spawned the 9/11 plot

NEW YORK — The Ryder Rental truck packed with 1,600 pounds of explosives was positioned near a pillar on the B2 level of the World Trade Center underground garage, beneath the mammoth Twin Towers.

The intention of the bomb maker, Ramzi Yousef, was to pull off a blast so massive that one tower would topple over into another and crash down onto the financial offices of Wall Street.

“He had a vision of 250,000 casualties,” said John Miller, NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism.

Miller was working as a TV reporter on February 26, 1993, when Middle Eastern extremists pulled off their first, successful terror attack on U.S. soil.

Before the decade was over, Miller would have a face-to-face meeting with Al Qaeda leader, Osama bin laden, in the mountains of Afghanistan, several years before the September 11th attacks.

“In 1993, truck bombs were things that happened in Beirut,” Miller observed.

Scott Alswang, who was a U.S. Secret Service agent parking his vehicle on the B2 level that day, was the closest person to the truck bomb who survived.

“I thought I had blown up the tire compressor, “ Alswang recalled. He later testified against Ramsi Yousef, when the Kuwaiti-born terrorist was prosecuted several years later.

Yousef was caught in Pakistan, staying in a guest house.

“We had to implement, on the fly, our high-rise rescue operation,” retired Chief of Department, Louis Anemone, said of the 1993 bombing.

Anemone had recently left the NYPD’s Special Operations Division in 1993, when the Trade Center was targeted the first time.

PIX11 commemorated the 25th anniversary of that first, World Trade Center bombing—which killed six adults and the unborn child of victim Monica Rodriguez Smith—with a special report and expert panel that explained why the attack was so significant to the course of New York City and U.S. history.

The people arrested within a week of the 1993 attack were part of a cell that would ultimately morph into the plot to use airplanes, eight years later, for cataclysmic, synchronized jet bombings of the Twin Towers and Pentagon, along with an aborted flight that crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Lolita Jackson, who was a Dean Witter employee in 1993, working on the 72nd Floor of the south tower, recalled it took her 2 ½ hours to get down a pitch black stairwell.

One of her co-workers needed to be carried down in his wheelchair.

“50,000 people going down six sets of stairs,” Jackson remembered.

The stairwells were lit and painted after 1993, and that actually made evacuations easier after the catastrophic 9/11 attacks.

Hear the compelling back story on the 1993 World Trade Center bombing from the people who were there—the same people who witnessed the collapse of the Twin Towers eight years later in 2001.