1993 World Trade Center Terrorist Attack

February 26, 1993

My 2 and 4 year old children had gone out with a babysitter, Nicole, to find some diversion from our 4 walls. Our neighborhood offered choices. There was the Winter Garden in the World Financial Center, with palm trees, marble floors and huge expanses of windows looking out to the Hudson River with its water taxis, ferries, the New Jersey shoreline, the Statue of Liberty and gleaming cruise ships as large as small towns heading in or out from luxury escapes from ordinary life. The Winter Garden also had ice cream parlors, a Godiva Chocolate shop, clothing stores, restaurants and very child friendly book and toy stores. Outside the Winter Garden there were several lovely playgrounds, gardens and sport fields as well as an absolutely gorgeous esplanade along the Hudson. Then, heading east via a pedestrian bridge crossing the four lane West Street, one entered the World Trade Center. Once across the bridge, it was just a few steps through glass doors to the Trade Center courtyard, a football stadium sized expanse of marble, a sculpture decked fountain and benches, surrounded by the tallest buildings in the world and offering respite from traffic and office work. Back inside and down the escalator in the Trade Center was a shopping mall, subway entrances and the entrance to the Path commuter train to and from New Jersey. From our apartment on the 21st floor, across the street from the World Trade Center, walking for 20 minutes in any direction but west would get you to any of these destinations. My children in a stroller pushed by an energetic young babysitter had a wide field to wander.

I was on my exercise bike when the building shook. Even though I had never heard a garbage truck overturning, that is what I assume had happened. It was a sudden deep loud sound accompanied by a deep tremor and followed almost immediately, and for the rest of the day, by the scream of emergency vehicles. 1993 was pre-cell phone. I had no idea where my children were within the 20 minute radius of their normal adventures. My husband had left a short time earlier to take the Path train to New Jersey. I turned on the TV and learned that the garbage truck crash was actually an explosion of undetermined nature somewhere underneath the Trade Center. Had my husband been on the Path at the time of the explosion? Were my kids in the Trade Center? Why hadn’t the babysitter brought them home yet?

When my daughter was 6 months old she was found to have a huge and life-threatening tumor in her throat. It was only by being vigilant that we were able to save her life but as she became well I knew that I was going to have to be careful not to burden her with my own paranoia over every possible cough or scraped knee. I worked hard to pay attention to warning signs, not panic about them and then to verify the need for alarm. So, when, on February 26, 1993, my children did not come home and my husband did not call, I tried to remain calm. I knew there was no reason to go out looking for my children. With so vast an area to cover, finding them was extremely unlikely. I waited and the longer I waited, the less able I was to hold onto my assumption that my children, Nicole and my husband were safe.

Two hours after the explosion - which we later discovered was a terrorist attack intending to demolish the World Trade Center – my children and Nicole walked in to our apartment. They were blissfully safe having no inkling that the explosion had even happened. They had been in Rizzoli Bookstore in the Winter Garden when the explosion happened. They didn’t feel the explosion. They weren’t evacuated from the building, the stores didn’t close. Nicole said she never heard the sirens but did notice that there were quite a few police cars on our street when they came home but she didn’t pay much attention to it. My husband finally called from his office in New Jersey having arrived without incident.

Eight and one half years later, a bright sunny September morning, in the same apartment, the building shook one more time; this time convincing me that it was time to find a new home.

—Jean McGavin
Bethlehem, CT, 2010

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