880 In Depth: Former NYPD Commissioner Says 1993 WTC Attack Was Missed Wake Up Call

WCBS 880 Newsroom
February 25, 2020 - 7:55 pm

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Wednesday marks 27 years since the first attack on the World Trade Center, an event some say should have been the true wake up call for America.

On Feb. 26. 1993, in an underground parking garage beneath the North Tower a 1,200-pound bomb was detonated at 12:18 p.m.

The explosion caused a series of power outages, trapping people in elevators and almost instantly shut down all communication systems. Smoke quickly swept through the towers and around 50,000 people began evacuating the buildings.

In total, six people were killed that day and while the attack was not nearly as devastating as the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, former NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly notes it should have been a wake-up call.

“New York is a target, it’s the number one target,” Kelly told WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell and Tim Scheld in this week’s 880 In Depth Podcast.

The sentiment was true in 1993, in 2001 and it’s still true today.

He says the 1993 bombing should have rang alarm bells for law enforcement, but it didn’t. There were only some scattered security upgrades following the attack, but not the kind of vigilance that was seen in the aftermath of 9/11.

Kelly says, had he and the NYPD taken the threats more seriously, perhaps the terror attacks in 2001 could have been prevented.

“9/11 happened, I think, because in large measure the attack in 1993 was not the huge wake up call that it should have been,” he said. “It should have been a carrying call for the country, federal authorities, local police agencies to come together and realize that there was looming terrorist threat out there.”

The former commissioner adds that the success of the investigation may have led to a false sense of security – but in reality, the attack was only solved when one of the terrorists tried to retrieve his deposit on the rental truck they used to transport the bomb.

“As a result of the rapidity with which the case was solved, it was kind of laughed off about the fact that he came back for the deposit, like the gang that couldn’t shoot straight,” Kelly says. “I think that resulted in sort of a diminished view as to what the threat really was.”

Now, the former commissioner worries about the next generation of threats: drones.

“We know that drones are something that terrorists of today are focusing on, are using, in other countries and drones are difficult to defend against,” Kelly says. “So we’ve got to build a strategy, a capacity to defeat a drone attack.”

He asks: “What if we had a thousand drones?”

Currently, he doesn’t think New York is prepared for a wide scale attack such as that – and though it seems unlikely, it’s always a possibility and law enforcement needs to be prepared for anything.

Kelly has previously said he thinks that, overall, we are safer than we were before 9/11 happened, “but there are no guarantees in this world.”

Listen to the full conversation with former NYPD Commissioner Kelly on the 880 In Depth podcast on the RADIO.COM app or wherever you get your podcasts.