WORLD TRADE CENTER BOMBING (House of Representatives - March 10, 1993)
The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House the gentleman from New York [Mr. Nadler] is recognized for 60 minutes.
Mr. NADLER. Madam Speaker, I rise today to express my pride in the people who live and work in New York City for their courageous response to the catastrophic bombing of the World trade Center, in my district, on February 26, 1993. The bravery, courage, quick thinking, and genuine concern for others exhibited by each person whose life this disaster touched helped prevent even greater tragedy. The ability of average New Yorkers to cope with and recover from this catastrophic event is a fine example for all Americans. I am proud to represent citizens of New York today.
As New York recovers and looks toward the future, I want to remember the five innocent victims of this callous terrorism. When William Macko, Robert Kirkpatrick, Monica Smith, and Steven Knapp, all Port Authority employees, and John DiGiovanni, a dental equipment salesman, left their homes that cold winter morning it was a typical day. They went to the World Trade Center to do an honest job and provide for their families. During lunch hour, an enormous explosion in the nearby parking lot abruptly ended their lives. The injustice of this crime is incomprehensible. I offer my condolences to the families and friends of the deceased, who must endure the pain caused by the untimely deaths of their loved ones.
We will not forget the tragedy of these five senseless deaths, but we must learn from the strength and courage of those who helped each other remain calm and evacuate the buildings safely and efficiently. The afternoon of the blast, I visited the World Trade Center. Thousands of people emerged from the building gasping for fresh air after descending seemingly endless flights of stairs in dark, smoky stairwells. Despite the threat to their own safety, these New Yorkers demonstrated compassion and calm in a time of crisis by helping total strangers descend the dark staircases. One woman, whose disability confines her to a wheelchair, was passed from person to person until she was safely on the street outside.
Brave acts, such as this, were exhibited by both young and old. Courageous kindergarten children from P.S. 95 in Brooklyn were trapped in a dark elevator for 7 hours. These children and their chaperones sang songs to comfort each other from the terror of not knowing the cause of their situation and the extent of danger they faced. They were rescued when James Sherwood, a lieutenant of the New York City Fire Department, sledgehammered a hole through a wall where he heard faint voices. Another group of schoolchildren visiting the Trade Center that day remained trapped on the outdoor observation deck, 110 stories above New York City streets in the cold winter air. Parents of the children waited anxiously for several hours before their children were brought safely to the ground.
The suffering that many endured waiting for information about family and friends who were in the World Trade Center at the time of the bombing was equally painful. An employee in my office anxiously waited for 2 hours before she learned that her father had safely escaped the 99th floor of One World Trade Center.
Every New Yorker took justifiable comfort in knowing that New York's uniformed services were prepared and in control of the situation. Were it not for the expertise, courage and professionalism of these brave New Yorkers the tragedy would have been even greater.
I personally witnessed the New York City police skillfully maintain order in a situation which would seem to encourage panic and chaos. New York's Finest had full command of downtown Manhattan, facilitating the rescue of thousands.
The New York City Fire Department quickly controlled and extinguished the fire caused by the explosion, and rescued many trapped by the smoke throughout the Trade Center. One survivor recalled how firefighters rescued him and friends from the basement by beating back flames caused by the blast, shielding them, and guiding them to safety. There are numerous examples of heroism that took place on that day. I am extremely proud of each member of the New York City Police Department and the New York City Fire Department for their work.
New York's emergency medical service workers also played a heroic role in saving lives that day. They immediately established triage areas as people emerged from the building covered in soot, treating them skillfully and efficiently. EMS quickly and successfully treated a seemingly unmanageable number of people. We are grateful to have had their care and expertise working to help numerous New Yorkers.
The courage of ordinary New Yorkers on February 26 saved us all from even greater losses. Now we must concentrate on achieving full recovery from this bombing. I want to commend Governor Cuomo and Mayor Dinkins for their leadership and compassionate response to this disaster.
Unfortunately, many businesses were lost, and others have had to relocate temporarily. The Small Business Administration quickly declared the World Trade Center an economic disaster, and distributed funds to save many of the businesses that have tremendously suffered. On behalf of New Yorkers, I thank the SBA for its timely response.
President Clinton's concerned response and continued support since the afternoon of the tragic bombing is also greatly appreciated. I join Governor Cuomo in asking President Clinton to provide further needed assistance by offering FEMA funding to aid in the recovery of those who are suffering because of the bombing.
Madam Speaker, in the wake of the tragic World Trade Center bombing, we must look to the future. First, every one of the perpetrators of this horrendous crime must be brought to justice. Americans should not and will not stand for this cowardly act to go unpunished.
Second, we must carefully examine our emergency preparedness systems so that we can reaffirm our confidence in our infrastructure. We must be confident that we have the ability to cope with any future crisis.
Finally, we must never forget the courage exhibited by those who were trapped in the World Trade Center on February 26. They serve as an inspiration to us all.
- Mr. GILMAN. Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleagues from the State of New York, [Mr. Nadler and Ms. Maloney], for organizing today's special order on the tragic bombing of the World Trade Center.
- Madam Speaker, virtually every American household saw the dramatic television footage of the recent World Trade Center explosion. Sadly, in my district, bordering New York City, the tragedy struck close to home and claimed the life of Robert Kirkpatrick, a carpenter and locksmith, whose neighbors described as `generous to a fault.' Robert, whose office was on the second level of the parking garage, was one of the five killed in that incident. In addition, over 1,000 were injured as a result of the bomb blast.
- Over the years, due to the extraordinary efforts of our nation's law enforcement officials, Customs Service, and intelligence agencies, the United States has been virtually free of terrorist incidents. However, as the World Trade Center bombing tragically demonstrates, we are certainly not free of this criminal scourge.
- Clearly, those responsible must be brought to justice. However, in this time of anger and bewilderment over this senseless act, it is important that we allow our justice system to take its course, and not succumb to the urge to take justice into our hands.
- Terrorism continues to be a concern for Americans, and demands the attention of our government, which has a clear responsibility to provide for the safety of its citizens. However, our government, albeit a world superpower with vast intelligence and military powers, cannot always stop terrorists.
- Following the gulf war, the world was granted a reprieve from terrorism. However, terrorism has not ceased; it has temporarily gone into remission. Many of the States that previously supported terrorism have only shelved their terrorist infrastructures for temporary storage.
- I believe that there are several steps that can be taken to strengthen our Nation's approach to terrorism. While democracies must preserve the ideals upon which they are founded, I believe that democracies can and should have a strong response to terrorism. Our Nation, working with other nations, can severely curtail the freedoms under which terrorists have operated during the past decade.
- Accordingly, I am preparing an omnibus antiterrorism bill which seeks to strengthen the U.N. position against terrorism, to utilize our vast economic resources and political pressure against states which support terrorism, to strengthen bilateral and multilateral cooperation against terrorist organizations, focus on encouraging media restraint in reporting terrorist incidents, and to strive to alleviate the social and economic problems which contribute to the rise of terrorist activity.
- I invite my colleagues to join me and cosponsor my legislation. While no government can guarantee to be 100 percent effective in combating terrorism, I believe that given the extraordinary changes in the world political balance over the past decade, our Nation is poised to lead a serious effort to eradicate certain forms of terrorism.
- Mr. KING. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in outrage over the recent attack on the World Trade Center in Manhattan. The cowardly assault on the unsuspecting civilian target left hundreds injured and five dead, including one of my constituents from my hometown of Seaford, Long Island. My heart goes out to all the victims of the attack, and I extend my deepest sympathies to the families of the slain. The bombing also caused tens of millions of dollars in physical damage and immeasurable economic disruption. Yet, through it all, the people of New York demonstrated their indomitable spirit.
- Tremendous credit must also be given, of course, to the FBI and the New York City Police Department for the professional job they have done in investigating this heinous crime. I would also like to commend the firefighters, emergency services personnel, and hundreds of ordinary New Yorkers on the scene during the World Trade Center emergency. Their heroic response during the disaster displayed the true spirit of New York--showing and giving their best when things were at their worst.
- Ms. VELAZQUEZ. Madam Speaker, I rise today to join my New York colleagues in commending the men and women of New York City's emergency services who risked their lives during the horrifying tragedy at the World Trade Center.
- Our police officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, and civilian employees responded bravely, quickly, and effectively, thereby minimizing the lost of life and damage of property. Once again, New Yorkers proved that, even under the most difficult and threatening of circumstances, they are able to meet any challenge and overcome any crisis. Like them, I only wish that no lives had been lost and no families were grieving as a result of this tragedy.
- This disaster resulted in five fatalities and over 1,000 injuries. It also disrupted transportation networks and caused smoke and related damage to more than 40 retail businesses on the concourse level of the facility. For example, the Vista Hotel sustained such heavy damage that its management has announced the layoff of more than 600 employees. In addition, this event has caused the relocation of several hundred vital and essential businesses which comprise the heart of our city's and the country's financial services industry.
- In this regard I applaud Governor Cuomo's and Mayor Dinkins' request to the Small Business Administration for expedited economic assistance for small businesses located in the towers. This initiative will help them recover some of the financial losses they are bearing, and I am grateful for President Clinton's favorable response.
- I also applaud the joint venture between the Port Authority and New York City to establish a $5 million, no interest loan fund for small businesses to rebuild and restart their operations.
- The struggle for thousands and thousands of workers and businesses is far from over, and under the current situation I urge the Federal Emergency Management Administration to expedite Governor Cuomo's request for a major disaster declaration.
- Once again, my heart goes out to those who lost family members in this disaster, and my assistance goes out to those workers and businesses still reeling from the effects of the explosion.
- Mrs. MALONEY. Madam Speaker, I rise this evening to speak about the World Trade Center explosion and about the heroes and heroines who responded so quickly and so diligently to this disaster.
- The lives of tens of thousands of people were in jeopardy on Friday, February 26, when a van filled with explosives blew up in an underground garage beneath the World Trade Center.
- New York's police, fire, and emergency service personnel performed magnificently, putting their own lives at risk so that tens of thousands of citizens inside the building could make it to safety.
- There are so many examples of heroism which I could recount, but let me relate a handful of them that have been reported in the New York Times.
- There's Sgt. Timothy Farrell of the New York City Police Department who was lowered by a cable to the roof of the World Trade Center from a helicopter to rescue eight trapped people, including a woman who was 8 months pregnant.
- There's firefighter Kevin Shea, who plunged into a gaping crater blown open by the explosion as he groped through the smoke in search of victims. Other firefighters risked their lives to rescue Shea from the rubble.
- There's Police Lt. James W. Sherwood and Lt. Michael Podolak of the Port Authority Police who used a sledgehammer to break through an elevator wall on the 43d floor and rescue 62 school children trapped in the dark for nearly 5 hours.
- Lieutenant Sherwood recalls telling the children, `You are the bravest kids I've ever seen.'
- Besides the officials who responded to this disaster, there were many other heroes and heroines inside the buildings, like the office mate who helped a colleague confined to a wheelchair make it through dozens of flights of stairs through smoke that was so thick you could not see your shoes.
- And there were the school teachers of several different groups of school children trapped inside the building including several who spent 5 hours calming the children trapped inside the elevator on the 43d floor.
- George Howard, a Port Authority police officer, summed up the attitude of hundreds of people who worked hard to save lives when he told a reporter, `There is no single hero story. Everybody just did their job. That's what they pay us for. When something like this happens, we end up doing what we've got to do.'-
- Mr. FLAKE. Madam Speaker, I would like to extend my sincere admiration and gratitude to those individuals who were involved in the fatal bombing of the World Trade Center in New York. The level of courage that was displayed by all parties involved was certainly commendable. People often view New York City as a cold and heartless place. It is both comforting and enlightening to see this myth dispelled.
- Several members of my congregation at Allen AME Church were in the World Trade Center at the time of the bombing. Each conveyed their own personal story of how someone, often a stranger, had offered them assistance, even at the risk of their own life. I applaud the selflessness of these individuals and would like to recognize them as heroes.
- I would also like to convey my condolences to those families who lost loved ones and to those businesses that were forced to relocate. This was an unfortunate and regrettable occurrence. There is nothing I can say to ease your grief. However, I hope that you will take solace in the fact that the loss resulting from this disaster was kept to such a minimum. We have our fellow New York citizens, the fire department, the police department, and other emergency technicians to thank for this. It was inspiring to see everyone unite and work together to alleviate the ailments of this catastrophe.
- Mr. MANTON. Madam Speaker, I rise today to address my colleagues on the senseless devastation resulting from the terrorist bombing attack at the World Trade Center and upon the citizens of the New York metropolitan area.
- On Friday, February 26 at 12:18 p.m., an explosion ripped through six underground parking levels of the World Trade Center located immediately underneath the Vista Hotel and between two twin towers. The blast was so strong that it produced a crater six stories deep and about 200 feet wide. Approximately 90,000 people work and visit there every weekday, 6 of whom were killed as a result of the bombing. A thousand more were injured, and the lives of tens of thousands more were severely disrupted. The economic losses caused by the bombing are estimated at $1 billion.
- Today, our condolences are extended to the families of those killed in the blast. The death of a loved one under any circumstance is a source of great sorrow but when that death is the result of a senseless and hateful act, the loss is particularly devastating. Certainly, our thoughts and prayers are with all those families who had relatives that were killed or injured as a result of the blast.
- Every tragedy produces its heroes, and this was no exception. The World Trade Center bombing was the largest terrorist attack within the borders of the United States, and the response of our city's police, firefighting, and emergency medical personnel should be highly commended. Within minutes of the explosion, the street in front of the World Trade Center was filled with responding emergency equipment from the New York City police department, fire department, and emergency medical services, as well as the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey which owns the center. Four New York City police department helicopters made 40 rooftop landings on the towers between 12:30 p.m. and 11 p.m. During these flights, 25 New York City police officers rappelled from helicopters to the roofs of tower one where a landing zone was established and where police department pilots later delivered 125 rescue personnel to the roofs. Scores of police, fire, and EMS personnel were among the 1,000 injured in the blast's wake, and their heroism is to be applauded. As a retired police officer, I am particularly proud of the efforts of my former colleagues at the New York Police Department.
- The economic losses resulting from the bombing are enormous. While it is difficult to measure accurately the extent of these losses, some estimates are as high as $1 billion--not a surprising figure when one considers that the tens of thousands of people who work at the World Trade Center have been denied
- access to their offices for weeks. While we recongize the coordinated efforts of the New York State Emergency Management Office, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the U.S. Small Business Administration, more will need to be done to assure that the economic consequences of this attack are minimized to the greatest extent possible.
- Lastly, no one would argue with the assertion that anything that can help us prevent a single terrorist act from occurring, or in apprehending those responsible, certainly merits serious examination by Congress. To that end, I am proud to have sponsored H.R. 1262, the Explosives Fingerprinting Act of 1993, which would require all explosive manufactures to introduce high-technology additives into explosives that will give them identifying signatures which would tell our law enforcement officials when and where they were made.
- Such additives, called taggants, are microscopic chips designed to survive explosives. Taggants have been long supported by the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms as a valuable and antiterrorist tool. After a bombing incident, agents could examine the manufacturer's required paperwork to identify suspects from lists of purchasers. Identifying the source and subsequent sale of explosives is nearly impossible without taggants.
- So, one may ask, why hasn't this antiterrorist technology been developed and utilized in the past? The tragic answer is that special interest groups representing the explosives and gun industries have not only killed previous legislation to require taggants, but have also limited the amount of funding the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms can devote to developing this technology.
- As a former police officer, I know well it is tough enough to conduct criminal investigations without having one hand tied behind your back. It's time to get tough on terrorist bombings and give our agents a valuable new tool in their arsenal. I would encourage my colleagues to join me as cosponsors of this important legislation, thereby taking a small step toward making sure another such terrorist attack does not occur.