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©1999 - 2013
Edward D. Reuss
All rights reserved. Including the right of reproduction in whole or part in any form

 

TERRORISM IN NEW YORK

It was noontime, Friday, January 24, l975. The tavern was filled with patrons.  It was soon to be the scene of a bloodbath.

The explosive device had been placed near an unused exit door of the Angler's and Tarpon Club next to the historical Fraunces Tavern at the corner of Pearl Street and Broad Street. The famous tavern was built in 1719 as a private residence and converted into a tavern in 1762.  It was a favorite of General George Washington. On December 4, 1783, Washington gave his farewell to the officers of the Continental Army in the tavern and then left for Annapolis to tender his resignation as Commander-in-Chief. It was and is an important historical building.

Police Officers George Toth and Henry Petersen, Truck One, Emergency Service, were patrolling near City Hall and the Brooklyn Bridge.   They had just decided to get lunch when the call came over the First Division Radio. They always monitored Citywide Frequency and also the particular Patrol Division radio that they were patrolling.

"What car for a report of an explosion at Broad Street and Pearl Street in the First Precinct?" The voice of the dispatcher betrayed a sense of urgency.

The cops listened for the precinct sector cars to acknowledge as they flipped on their emergency lights and siren.  The wail of the siren echoed off the buildings. Pedestrians barely cast a glance at the cops as they desperately drove the truck through the traffic.  The blasť New Yorkers were used to the sight of police cars racing to calls. Toth and Petersen muttered and cursed to themselves as the reluctant drivers lazily pulled out of their way. The police radio was filled with static as multiple calls began to flood the frequency.  As seasoned street cops, they knew what that meant. This was for real.

They were the first cops on the scene. These are the moments in the career of a cop that they find out that they are made of the "right stuff". For cops who work in the Emergency Service of the NYPD, there are many such moments. 
 

P.O. George Toth, first at the scene of the explosion
NY Daily News Photo By Harry Hamburg


Debris from the explosion was on the Pearl Street side of the Tavern.  Crowds of people were standing as if in a trance. An injured woman was lying sprawled on the sidewalk.   The bomb had torn into the Tavern and injured many of the people in the dining room.  Four people had been killed instantly, and at least fifty others had been injured in the blast. Petersen shouted into the radio and notified Citywide that there were many injuries. The two cops surveyed the chaotic scene and began to assess the worst injuries.  Inside the Tavern, the casualties were everywhere.  The interior of the dining room was heavily damaged. As more cops and medical personnel flooded into the area, Toth and Petersen did what they could to administer first aid.  

It was later learned that the terrorist organization that has since become known as the FALN had claimed responsibility for planting the device.  No one has ever been charged with the bombing. 

On New Year's Eve, December 31, 1982, New York was the scene of a wave of bombings.  An explosion first rocked the Federal Courthouse at 26 Federal Plaza. Shortly thereafter, Police Officer Rocco Pascarella on duty at One Police Plaza lost part of his leg when another bomb went off there.  Finally, a bomb tore into the Federal Courthouse at Cadman Plaza in Brooklyn.  When two other devices were discovered in St. Andrew's Plaza beside the Federal Courthouse at Foley Square, the NYPD Bomb Squad sealed off the area and was preparing to disarm the device when it exploded.
Detectives Richie Pastorella and Tony Senft were severely injured in the blast. 

These explosions were also the work of the same FALN organization that claimed credit for the Fraunces Tavern murders back in 1975.


 

THE TWIN TOWERS

 It was noontime, Friday, February 26, l993. The terrorists had loaded 1,500 pounds of explosives in cardboard boxes and three tanks of compressed hydrogen gas and containers of nitroglycerin into a yellow rented Ford Econoline.  They drove it into the public garage under the Vista International Hotel in the World Trade Center followed by another red car. They parked the Ford van illegally on the ramp of B-2 level under Tower One. The terrorists lit the fuses and fled in the red car.

The Twin Towers of the World Trade Center are the workplace for 50,000 people. Both of the Towers rise 110 floors above the city streets. The explosives blew a hole five stories high and 180 feet wide in the base of the Tower. The people on the upper floors felt the building rock and shake. There were no alarms; no one provided any information to the workers. The electrical system was knocked out. The television stations were down because their transmitters were located on the roof of the Tower. Fortunately, Channel 2 had a backup transmitter on the Empire State Building and continued to broadcast.  Smoke billowed up the elevator shafts and filled the floors of the building.

There were five killed and more than one thousand casualties in that terrorist attack. It is a fact that shortly after the attack and while America was watching on television, numerous phone calls were made to the NYPD claiming credit for the bombing.  Many of those calls were bogus. The real terrorists also called, but their arrogant bragging was lost for a while in the flood of fake calls.

The bombsite was a mass of twisted steel and concrete, but in the mountain of debris, the FBI found a critical bit of evidence.  A small piece of metal with a vehicle VIN number was traced to a truck rental office in New Jersey.  When a young Palestinian man arrived to redeem his $400 deposit, he and five others were later arrested and charged with the bombing. They were convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

 

A ROUTINE BOMBING INCIDENT?

Last month, a simple explosive device was placed at the Barclay's Building located at 75 Wall Street.  At about 4:41 AM,  February 11, 2000, the bomb damaged a door and shattered some of the glass on the Water Street side of the building.  Four postal workers were passing by just prior to the explosion.  They recognized it as a bomb when they saw the burning fuse.  They started to run and were a short distance away when it went off.  One of the men was slightly injured.

 

PO Sean Monahan MTN Pct.
Photo By NY Cop Online Magazine

The FBI/NYPD Joint Terrorist Task Force has ruled out terrorism because the leads that they have point to a disgruntled employee. I took some photos of the scene at 75 Wall Street and interviewed some of the police officials present.  Inspector Bruce Smolka, Detective Borough Manhattan was a familiar face. Bruce and I were Lieutenants in the 9th Precinct and we both worked in the 120th Precinct.  It was good to see that an old friend had risen in the ranks.


Insp. Smolka NYPD
Photo By NY Cop Online Magazine

Former NYPD Chief of Personnel Michael Julian was also at the scene.   Chief Julian retired a few years ago, but now is Senior Vice-President of Operations for a security firm. I always could recognize a good street cop when I saw one.  You can't command cops sitting on your butt in an office. When it "hits the fan" as they say, good cops always respond to the scene of the action. Julian was such a cop. Standing in the cold, he learned what he needed to know. He wanted to know what was happening first hand.  The spreading of false rumors could lead to unnecessary fears by financial district employees.  Julian is a street- smart cop and knows how to dispel such rumors with good intelligence information.

I walked through the financial district later and decided to pass by the Stock Market itself at Broad and Wall Streets.  The imposing building with its Greek columns seems archaic today. The floor of the Stock Exchange appears to be destined to be merely a tourist attraction. The information highway of the Internet has provided a worldwide "stock exchange" in cyberspace.  Electronic trading or "E" commerce has exploded in the past year alone.  As I stood in front of that famous site, I thought of an incident many years before that has remained a mystery to law enforcement.

It was noontime, September 16, 1920; the horse drawn wagon that was parked at Broad and Wall Streets didn't attract any attention.  The wagon was loaded full of explosives and heavy window weights. At one minute past noon, the explosives were detonated and the blast rocked the crowded streets. Thirty-nine people were killed and over 200 injured in the explosion.  No arrests were ever made for that act of terrorism.

The scene in front of the New York Stock Exchange
Big Town Big Time A New York Epic 1898-1998
James Maeder-Daily News

New York City is the cultural and commercial capital of the world. Unfortunately, it is also a tempting target for terrorists and political anarchists that seek to impose their will or make their political statements.  Meanwhile, the Bomb Squad of the NYPD will have to cope with a problem that continues to grow with each passing year.
 

Copyright © 2000 Edward D. Reuss

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