Don't Panic: The Psychology of Emergency Egress and Ingress

By Jerome M. Chertkoff; Russell H. Kushigian | Go to book overview

Chapter 9
World Trade Center Bombing, February 26, 1993

At about 8:00 on the morning of Friday, February 26, 1993, school buses loaded with children from five kindergarten classes departed from Public School (P.S.) 95 in the Gravesend section of Brooklyn. It was the annual field trip to the World Trade Center. Three of the classes would be back by midafternoon, as scheduled; but for two of the classes, the field trip would take much longer than expected. The World Trade Center is actually a complex of seven high-rise buildings in lower Manhattan (see Figure 13), but for most people, the World Trade Center is synonymous with the Twin Towers, each with 110 stories, and a quarter-mile high. Each of the Twin Towers is among the tallest buildings in the world. One of the seven buildings is separated from the others by Vesey Street (see Figure 13). The other six buildings are built over an underground area containing a shopping mall, four levels of parking, and a major station for the Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH) commuter trains.

The World Trade Center is huge. It has seven times the office space of the Empire State Building. About 50,000 people work at the World Trade Center, and it is estimated that about 80,000 others will come there at one time or another during a typical day.

On the 107th floor of Tower Two is an observatory that provides a spectacular view. The kindergarten classes from P.S. 95 in Brooklyn would be visiting the observatory that day.

At 12:18 P.M., an explosion ripped through six underground parking levels beneath the Vista Hotel at a position adjacent to Tower One. The blast was caused by a 1,500-pound bomb placed in a van, and was the work of a group of terrorists. The van was parked in the second sublevel, the B-2 level, of the underground garage (see Figure 14). The explosion produced a gigantic crater about 200 feet wide. The blast penetrated upward into the lobby of the Vista Hotel and shattered the glass partitions between the Vista Hotel and Tower One. Masonry fire walls and fire doors between the Vista Hotel and Tower One were demolished. The blast pene-

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