When Stephen Knapp Jr. was 18 years old, he learned his father had been killed. Knapp Sr. was one of six individuals who died in a massive bombing at the World Trade Center in 1993. On Tuesday, 26 years later, Knapp honored his father by helping to read the names of the attack’s victims.
On Feb. 26, 1993, about 1,200 pounds of explosives stored in a rental van parked in the underground parking garage of the trade center were detonated, creating a 5-story hole in the below-ground levels of the building, according to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. Six people were killed: John DiGiovanni, Robert Kirkpatrick, Stephen Knapp, William Macko, Wilfredo Mercado and a pregnant Monica Rodriguez Smith. More than 1,000 others were injured.
Steplhen Knapp Jr. recalled on Tuesday seeing smoke engulf the complex from across the river in Hoboken, learning only later that evening that his dad, who was 47 and the chief mechanical supervisor for the World Trade Center, did not make it.
"Every year, it’s a chance for us to see the other families. It’s a common experience that we all share, a special bond," said Knapp, who will turn 45 on Wednesday. "With the way society is today, everybody needs to stay on guard and remember . . . I think it helps keep that fresh in people’s memories that it’s not the same world we used to live in."
On a blustery Tuesday afternoon, people laid flowers on the victims’ names on a memorial as Port Authority and FDNY bands played pipes and drums.
Alice M. Greenwald, president and CEO of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, said it was important to remember the 1993 bombing, which she said influenced the response to the Sept. 11 attacks.
"The 1993 bombing, in a way, is the event that got eclipsed by 9/11. Prior to 9/11, this was the worst terrorist event in the history of the city of New York," Greenwald said. "The irony, of course, is because of what happened in 1993, improvements were made and security upgrades were made that actually saved lives eight years later. So there is this intimate connection, particularly for people who were in the buildings for both events, between 1993 and 9/11."
"Sept. 11 was reliving the hardest day of my life for the second time," Knapp Jr. said. "I come by whenever I can."
The elder Knapp’s nephew, Andy Gilkeson, 44, said he appreciates that the 1993 bombing is included as part of the memorial.
"We started in ’94, and it was hard to believe it was a year, and then it was five years, and it was 10 years, now it’s 26 and I’ve been here for almost all of them," he said. "It’s just tough. It’s hard to believe it’s been so long — the toughest thing to do is to see his grandchildren never got to meet him."