Volume 17, Number 41 | March 4 - 11, 2005

W.T.C. memorial for ’93 victims unveiled

By DIVYA WATAL

Sept. 11, 2001, has etched itself into a permanent recess in the minds of all Americans, and particularly Lower Manhattan residents, but Feb. 26, 1993 – a date full of Stygian portent – has almost faded into oblivion, leaving but a fragment that harbors its dark memories.

This past Saturday, Feb. 26, 2005, saw the completion of the 12th year since the 1993 World Trade Center attack, when terrorists detonated 1,200 pounds of explosives in a public parking garage beneath the towers, killing six and injuring more than 1,000 people.

It was the first attack against unsuspecting workers of Lower Manhattan, an attack that strangely intertwined with a similar and far more catastrophic event eight years later. A memorial placed in the World Trade Center complex to honor the six who died in the 1993 attack was decimated in 2001, except for one jagged piece that lay buried under rubble. Recovered by firefighters, that piece has now been fitted into a new, temporary memorial, which was unveiled at a ceremony on Saturday.

“This is a rededication – a rededication to never forget the first day our homeland was struck by terror,” said New York State Governor George Pataki, speaking at the ceremony, which took place at ground zero.

To the right of the podium at which he spoke stood the nine-and-a-half foot, stainless steel pylon, shaped to evoke the memory of the Twin Towers, with a pinkish granite fragment staring out of its scooped belly. The fragment said, “John D,” part of the name of John DiGiovanni, one of the victims of the 1993 bombing. The original memorial – a fountain – had the names of all six victims inscribed on it, including Robert Kirkpatrick, Stephen Knapp, William Macko, Wilfred Mercado and Monica Rodriguez Smith, who was pregnant when she was killed.

At exactly 12:18 p.m., the time that the bomb detonated 12 years earlier, the families and friends of the victims, as well as politicians and Port Authority officials, gathered around the pylon for a moment of silence. The area was cordoned off from the press and public so that the families could mourn privately for a few minutes.

Speaking to reporters after the ceremony, Patrick Rodriguez, the brother of Monica Rodriguez Smith, said that after more than three years, he finally had “a place to go to again,” where he could “place some flowers down” and honor his sister’s memory.

Michael Macko, who lost his father, William, in the attack, said that the memorial was a “positive step” for making sure that “when the story of what happened at the World Trade Center is told, it will begin in 1993.” Macko, in fact, was instrumental in drawing attention to the neglected families of the 1993 W.T.C. victims. With the support of Sen. Charles Schumer, Macko’s activism paid off when the Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund was expanded to include the 1993 bombing victims as well.

Schumer acknowledged Macko’s efforts at the ceremony, thanking him for his letter, which brought to light the inequitable treatment of the six families.

“Nobody paid attention to them and to what happened in ’93,” Schumer said. “We forgot history once and paid an awful price for it. We must never forget history again.”

The six victims, along with the thousands who were injured 12 years ago on Feb. 26, were the first in Lower Manhattan to suffer the consequences of “the deadly virus of international terrorism,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

“One way that we honor the memory of these six people is by promising to make sure that we will never be so dangerously complacent again,” he said, adding that the memorial “will speak to generations of New Yorkers to come.”

The pylon, designed by Port Authority architect Jacqueline Hanley, will remain at its present location – on the Liberty St. side of ground zero – until a permanent memorial, honoring the victims of both attacks, is erected at the W.T.C. site. The temporary memorial is visible across a fence barrier but is not open to the public.


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