Victims of 1993 World Trade Center terror bombing still tormented

On the morning of Feb. 26, 1993, Michael Macko bundled into his father’s gold Nissan Pathfinder and together they set out for lower Manhattan.

Macko, then 29, worked at a special events company. His father William, 57, was a Port Authority mechanic stationed inside the World Trade Center.

The Mackos barely spoke during the ride from New Jersey.

Michael listened to music through his Walkman headphones while his father tuned in to the car radio.

“My dad liked to listen to sports radio or talk radio, which I hated,” Michael said.

After they pulled into a parking garage below the twin towers, Michael said goodbye to his father.

He never saw him again.

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1993 World Trade Center terror bombing
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1993 World Trade Center terror bombing
Emergency vehicles surround the twin towers of the World Trade Center in this February 26, 1993 file photo following that year's trade center bombing. Both towers have collapsed after two planes crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York September 11, 2001 as office workers began work on Tuesday morning. REUTERS/Mike Segar XX
Wanted signs for Ramzi Ahmed Youssef, one of the planners of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, on matchbook covers. (Photo by Jeffrey Markowitz/Sygma via Getty Images)
A New York Police Department officer speaks to a driver at John F. Kennedy International Airport. After the February 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, security was increased all over New York City. (Photo by mark peterson/Corbis via Getty Images)
A United Nations security guard checks a visitor's identification at the gate of the UN Headquarters in Manhattan. After the February 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, security was increased all over New York City. (Photo by mark peterson/Corbis via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - JANUARY 01: World Trade Center bombing victims. (Photo by Thomas S. England/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)
1993 World Trade Center Bombing. (Photo by Michael Norcia/New York Post Archives /(c) NYP Holdings, Inc. via Getty Images)
150059 012: An unidentified group of people walk outside of the World Trade Center February 26, 1993 in New York City, NY. The blast killed six people and injured more than 1,000 while causing $550 million in damage. (Photo by Porter Gifford/Liaison)
150059 013: A dazed man is seen as snow falls outside of the World Trade Center following an explosion February 26, 1993 in New York City, NY. The blast killed six people and injured more than 1,000 while causing $550 million in damage. (Photo by Porter Gifford/Liaison)
150059 019: Two unidentified injured men are wrapped in blankets outside the World Trade Center following an explosion February 26, 1993 in New York City, NY. The blast killed six people and injured more than 1,000 while causing $550 million in damage. (Photo by Porter Gifford/Liaison))
150059 01: An unidentified women breathes oxygen while a man talks to her February 26, 1993 in New York City. Ramzi Yousef was found responsible for the bombing that killed six people and caused $550 million in damages. (Photo by Porter Gifford/Liaison)
150059 01: An unidentified injured man breathes from an oxygen mask near the World Trade Center following an explosion February 26, 1993 in New York City, NY. The blast killed six people and injured more than 1,000 while causing $550 million in damage. (Photo by Porter Gifford/Liaison)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 26: Woman choking is being helped from the bomb scene of the World Trade Center bombing. (Photo by John Roca/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 26: Women leaving from the bomb scene of the World Trade Center bombing. (Photo by Ken Murray/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 26: Police rescue efforts after bombing explosion at World Trade Center caused by bomb., (Photo by Ken Murray/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
A police officer guards the entrance to the Vista Hotel parking garage on February 27, 1993, after a car bomb exploded underneath the World Trade Center on February 26, 1993, killing six people and injuring scores more. The attack was planned by a group of islamists terrorists including Ramzi Yousef and Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman who was sentenced to life imprisonment in October 1995 for masterminding the bombing. (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
Brian Rolford stands outside the World Trade Center after walking down from the 105th floor, 26 February 1993, after a car bomb exploded in a parking garage, killing six people and injuring scores more. The attack was planned by a group of islamists terrorists including Ramzi Yousef and Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman who was sentenced to life imprisonment in October 1995 for masterminding the bombing. (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/GettyImages)
NEW YORK, UNITED STATES: World Trade Center employees are evacuated from the 110-story building 26 February 1993 after an explosion and fire ripped through a commuter train station under the center. The ceiling in the underground Port Authority-Trans-Hudson line station collapsed onto scores of riders, and multiple fires at the base of the complex sent heavy smoke through the complex. (Photo credit should read TIM CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
Firefighters and rescue crews work outside the World Trade Center after smoke swept through the 110-story building after the ceiling of a train station collapsed 26 February 1993. The explosion set off a fire below the twin towers. (FILM) AFP PHOTO MARIA BASTONE / AFP PHOTO / MARIA BASTONE (Photo credit should read MARIA BASTONE/AFP/Getty Images)
A police boat races to the scene of the explosion at the World Trade Center. --- Photo by Brooks Kraft/Corbis Sygma (Photo by Brooks Kraft/Sygma/Sygma via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 27: Bombing inside the World Trade Center after the bomb explosion. (Photo by David Handschuh/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 27: World Trade Center bombing. (Photo by David Handschuh/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
Injured are evacuated to ambulances with Twin Towers in rear. Blackened faces. Stunned faces. Oxygen masks. February 26, 1993. (Photo by Michael Norcia/New York Post Archives /(c) NYP Holdings, Inc. via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 27: Daily News Front page dated February 27, 1993. , Headline: NEW YORK'S DAY OF TERROR, Trade Center bomb kills at least 5, wounds hundreds; line to Bosnia airlift feared., World Trade Center Bombing (Photo by NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
Police search on the ground in a parking garage underneath the World Trade Center, 27 February 1993, after a car bomb exploded 26 February 1993, killing six people and injuring scores more. The attack was planned by a group of islamists terrorists including Ramzi Yousef and Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman who was sentenced to life imprisonment in October 1995 for masterminding the bombing. / AFP PHOTO / Timothy A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
Injured are evacuated. February 26, 1993. (Photo by Michael Norcia/New York Post Archives /(c) NYP Holdings, Inc. via Getty Images)
Sumitomo Bank Securities employee Kelly McCabe waits at concourse level with a load of computers. March 01, 1993. (Photo by David Rentas/New York Post Archives /(c) NYP Holdings, Inc. via Getty Images)
1993 World Trade Center Bombing. February 26, 1993. (Photo by Michael Schwartz/New York Post Archives /(c) NYP Holdings, Inc. via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - MARCH 02: The investigation into the bombing of the World Trade Center continues wth FBI agents on West Street. (Photo by Harry Hamburg/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
FBI and ATF employees bring debris out of one of the underground tunnels. March 01, 1993. (Photo by David Rentas/New York Post Archives /(c) NYP Holdings, Inc. via Getty Images)
FBI and ATF employees bring debris out of one of the underground tunnels. March 01, 1993. (Photo by David Rentas/New York Post Archives /(c) NYP Holdings, Inc. via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - MARCH 06: World Trade Center bombing Police Commissioner Ray Kelly comes out of the hole with Emergency Service Cops. (Photo by Bill Turnbull/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
Glaziers replace World Trade Center Tower's huge panes of glass blown out of North Tower on 3-story high scaffolding. March 02, 1993. (Photo by Michael Norcia/New York Post Archives /(c) NYP Holdings, Inc. via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 6: U.S. President Bill Clinton (R) meets with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak(L) in the Oval Office at the White House 06 April 1993. Mubarak is conferring with U.S. officials on ways to advance the Arab-Israeli peace process and about a possible Middle East link to the bombing of New York's world Trade Center. (Photo credit should read JENNIFER LAW/AFP/Getty Images)
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Roughly six hours later, a truck bomb detonated in the garage — killing six people, including William Macko, and injuring more than 1,000 others.

Even 25 years later, the thought of that final ride with his dad brings the younger Macko to tears.

“I wish now that I had just taken off the headphones and had a conversation with him,” the Bayonne, N.J., man told the Daily News, his voice halting and pierced with sobs.

“I try to regret very few things in my life. That is one that I do.”

The first terror attack at the World Trade Center has gone largely forgotten by those whose lives were not directly affected.

But for the sons and daughters who lost their fathers or the workers who suffered grievous injuries, the incident still haunts them in ways large and small.

The 1993 bombing both foreshadowed and was later overshadowed by the 9/11 attacks eight years later.

The terror strikes were carried out at the same location and financed by the same group, Al Qaeda.

The assault by air was far more catastrophic, toppling the twin towers and killing nearly 2,800 people.

In the ensuing years, the 1993 family members’ grief was complicated by feelings that their loss was being overlooked. They found themselves fighting for compensation and even recognition of their loved ones’ deaths.

The federal government moved quickly to set up a compensation fund for the victims of the 2001 terror strike.

The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund doled out more than $7 billion to victims’ family members and injured survivors. The average payout — $2 million.

But not a penny was made available to those whose lives were upended by the 1993 terror bombing.

“The bottom line is that more should have been done to commemorate, care for and compensate the victims and survivors of the 1993 World Trade Center attack,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). “Over time, by working with the families, some of those wrongs have been righted, but some work remains unrealized.”

A pitched legal battle broke out pitting some of the city’s finest personal injury lawyers against the Port Authority.

More than 600 survivors, businesses and families of the dead claimed the bistate agency was negligent in failing to heed the multiple warnings that the public parking garage was vulnerable to attack.

Among the evidence they pointed to was a 1985 report, written by the Port Authority’s security experts, warning that the subterranean garage was susceptible to an attack by a “time bomb-laden vehicle.”

A jury ruled in favor of the victims in 2005. But the state’s highest court ultimately reversed the decision, determining that the Port Authority was not liable for damages.

The majority of plaintiffs had already reached a settlement by then, though a handful wound up with nothing.

To the ire of some of the plaintiffs’ lawyers, Port Authority honchos largely emerged unscathed.

“The people who made the terrible decisions that resulted in death and destruction — they went on to get big jobs with big money and big pensions,” said lawyer Louis Mangone, who represented a seriously injured survivor.

Adding insult to injury for some, New York law barred Port Authority workers or their relatives from suing their employer.

These families, which included the Mackos, only had access to the more modest payouts available through workers’ compensation.

Michael’s mother was diagnosed with throat and neck cancer nine months after the attack.

He made it his mission to get recognition for the victims and compensation to help his mother pay for her medical care.

Macko was only half successful — the victims are honored at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. But congressional gridlock blocked his family and others from collecting money through the 9/11 compensation fund.

“I don’t want to sound bitter or that anyone owes us anything, but the sting of unfairness is there,” said Macko, who lost his mother in 2011.

The 1993 terror strike followed almost the exact blueprint security officials warned about years earlier.

Jersey City-based jihadists drove a rented van loaded with 1,500 pounds of explosives into lower Manhattan and parked it in the garage beneath the Vista Hotel, which was connected to both towers.

The terrorists were long gone when the bomb went off minutes later, at 12:18 p.m., ripping open a crater roughly 150 feet wide and five stories deep.

Architect Mike Rapp was inside the World Trade Center, performing a survey for a beefed-up command center, when the bomb detonated one floor below.

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Rarely seen photos from 9/11
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Rarely seen photos from 9/11

President George W. Bush watches news coverage of the attacks on the World Trade Center as he is briefed in a classroom at Emma. E Booker Elementary School on September 11, 2001. 

Photo Credit: Photo by Eric Draper, courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Library

In a photo taken two days after the attacks, the extensive damage to the Pentagon can be seen.

Photo Credit: Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Cedric H. Rudisill

Late into the night on September 11, 2001, the Pentagon continues to smoke. 

Photo Credit: Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Robert Houlihan

A clock frozen at the time of impact inside the Pentagon. 

Photo Credit: Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Larry A. Simmons

A scorched fifth-floor office desk from inside the Pentagon. 

Photo Credit: Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Larry A. Simmons

More damage from the fifth-floor of the Pentagon.

Photo Credit: Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Larry A. Simmons

President George W. Bush talks on the phone aboard Air-force One as his senior staff talks nearby. 

Photo Credit: Photo by Eric Draper, Courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Library

George W. Bush converses with Vice President Dick Cheney and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice inside the President's Emergency Operations Center on the day of the attacks. 

Photo Credit: National Archives photo

Vice President Dick Cheney and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice listen intently during meetings in the President's Emergency Operations Center. 

Photo Credit: National Archives photo

More views from inside the President's Emergency Operations Center on September 11, 2001. 

Photo Credit: National Archives photo

Smoke billows from site of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. 

Photo Credit: Photo by Paul Morse, courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Library

New York National Guard soldiers from the 69th Infantry Division and New York City firefighters work together to clear rubble from the ground zero. 

Photo Credit: New York National Guard photo

A New York National Guard soldier at ground zero. 

Photo Credit: New York National Guard photo

Secretary of State Colin Powell from inside the President's Emergency Operations Center. 

Photo Credit: National Archives photo

President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney converse inside the President's Emergency Operations Center on September 11, 2001. 

Photo Credit: National Archives photo

One day after the attack's President George W. Bush greets rescue workers, firefighters, and military who were on site at the Pentagon. 

Photo Credit: Photo by Eric Draper, Courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Library

The President thanks Firefighters, rescue workers, and military personnel at ground zero. 

Photo Credit: Photo by Eric Draper, Courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Library

President George W. Bush holds hands with his father during the service for America's National Day of Prayer and Remembrance on September 14, 2001. 

Photo Credit: Photo by Eric Draper, Courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Library

Soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) hang the largest authorized flag for the military over the side of the Pentagon as cleanup and recovery continue after the attacks. 

Photo Credit: Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Pendergrass

Taken on Feb. 8, 2004, the widow of pilot Jason Dahl who was flying United Airlines Flight 93 on September 11, 2001, holds a flag honoring those who sacrificed their lives on 9/11.  The plane is believed to have been en route to the White House but crashed in Somerset Pennsylvania.

Photo Credit: Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Darin Overstreet

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The floor went out from under him, pancaking down and dropping Rapp three stories into a “massive dark hole.”

“There were cars exploding underneath me,” recalled Rapp, now 59. “There were flames shooting up between these concrete slabs.”

Rapp found himself teetering on a section of concrete — his right ankle and leg crushed, his left knee broken, his pelvis fractured.

Incredibly, water from a broken main was shooting directly in his direction, providing a sort of liquid cocoon amid the intensifying flames.

“Thank God,” Rapp said. “The whole time I was being protected.”

Rapp was ultimately rescued by a group of firefighters who carried him to safety after fashioning an ax handle into a splint for his dangling lower leg.

Stephen Knapp’s father wasn’t so lucky.

Knapp, a day shy of his 18th birthday, watched the carnage from a classroom at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J., just across the Hudson River.

Only later did he find out that his father Stephen Knapp Sr., a chief Port Authority mechanical supervisor and Vietnam veteran, didn’t make it out alive.

“You go through different stages — shock and sadness, then anger,” said the younger Knapp. “I guess now I just see sadness in the whole thing.”

The plot’s mastermind, Ramzi Yousef, was sentenced to a life term plus 240 years.

“Yes, I am a terrorist, and proud of it,” Yousef told the judge at his January 1998 sentencing. “You are butchers, liars and hypocrites.”

Now 49, he’s serving his time at a federal Supermax prison in Colorado known as the “Alcatraz of the Rockies.”

Defense lawyer Bernard Kleinman described Yousef as “more thoughtful” and “more religious” than he was in the 1990s.

Kleinman is barred from sharing Yousef’s thoughts with the public, but he noted that his client has, intriguingly, written an extensive essay denouncing ISIS.

“He has condemned a number of the attacks committed by ISIS,” including the Islamic State-inspired truck attack on West St. in lower Manhattan last October, Kleinman said.

But does Yousef regret orchestrating the first World Trade Center attack? “I wouldn’t say that he necessarily has regrets,” Kleinman said.

As warden of the Florence ADX prison from 2002 to 2005, Bob Hood visited Yousef on a regular basis.

“One of the most respectful inmates I’ve ever had,” Hood said. “But he’s very influential. He’s like the Charlie Manson of the (federal) system. He has a lot of charisma. If you put him around other inmates, he would just have to talk and they would listen.”

Yousef remains locked up in ADX’s most secure unit — “a prison within a prison within a prison,” in the words of Hood — where he spends at least 23 hours a day in a 7-by-11-foot cell.

He has no contact with other prisoners. His food trays are delivered by unseen guards who pass them through a slot between two steel doors.

“It’s a clean version of hell,” Hood said.

Macko, for his part, spends little time thinking about Yousef.

But he does remember trudging to the city morgue to collect his father’s remains in the days after the attack.

He keeps one of his father’s belongings in a drawer inside his bedroom.

A Mickey Mouse watch, frozen in time at 12:18 p.m., the precise moment the bomb exploded.

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