On a very cold Friday lunch hour in Lower Manhattan, a large boom was heard amongst 50,000 locals at the World Trade Center Complex in New York City. Reports say it occurred around 12:15 local time. An explosion occurred at the garage level of the complex, with extremists intents. The goal was for the terrorist to knock off one of the pillars and if you took one down the rest could topple down.
The initial reports was a transformer explosion. Consolidated Edison, or ConEd the city’s electric company reported they didn’t have an outage, nor did they cut off power. Transformers step down voltages of power, many customers do not need high voltage energy. Transformers explode in neighborhoods, and are often one for every few customers. Any explosion wouldn’t carry up 110 stories… this initial report was debunked later in the day, but it was probed by the Channel 2 anchors.
6 people died, 5 initially reported, the 6th soul was found a few weeks later into mid March. Channel 2 reported just before the 5:00 news that they got confirmation a 9-1-1 call was placed just minutes before the bombing with a “foreign accent” said then correspondent Chris Jogensen.
Days later, more information came out, the Feds were on top of the case, and found the Ryder rent a truck’s Vehicle Identifier Number or VIN from a damaged effect of the said truck. Fun fact, VIN numbers are replicated throughout various parts of a vehicle, so it’s not just a sticker on the side door. They tracked down the VIN, finding it to belong to a local Ryder site in New Jersey, one of the co-conspirators came back to the place with the Feds hiding and caught the man.
As many of the younger readers may remember barely 1993, let alone 9/11, but concerns that New York would be attacked went as far back as the 1980s. When the World Trade Center was completed fully a decade later, concerns rose and rose, and then 1993 happened.
For local media it’s unclear which station broke in first or stayed on the air one because the noon broadcasts would still be on the air till 12:30 and b) because every station was knocked off the air because they transmitted entirely at 1 World Trade (the North Tower with the antenna.) In 1993 a handful of stations still had supers that looked like 1988, and modern technologies such as city cams (and helicopters) were still not in that market. However that day was snowy, very cold and windy, causing that situation to be even worse, and only emergency copters were flying getting vulnerable people off the roof of the North Tower.
The only station that was on the air, WCBS-TV was because their hot standby transmitter at the Empire State Building. The picture was lousy because the transmitter was still tube based, that was not replaced to a modern solid-state until 9/11 when the primary tower was totaled!
Because that station was the Tiffany Network’s flagship, they took up the costs of renting at the ESB because the reason why all the others moved to World Trade was the leases the company that owned the tower was pushing towards the stations. Many of the FM stations were knocked off the air.
Brian Williams had his last day with the station, his assignment was to cover the bombings live for hours on end. His next employer would be NBC News, and left his MSNBC gig just last winter.
On the radio side, WCBS’ 50 Stories podcast (when the station celebrated it’s 50th anni of the format in 2017), the management initially didn’t believe the story because many of their anchors were at an off-duty event where they were slightly intoxicated. The station did take their then new satellite truck down to a different type of Ground Zero days after the attack; to make the station sound NPR-ish with their FM-quality truck. (Now I tried to ask Wayne Cabot in a DM why they used satellite over microwave, I suspect the latter medium would be more important for TV in a very dense market perhaps…)
In the case of WCBS-TV they re-racked the same b-roll over and over. Developments trickled out very slowly. People did not jump off the edge like in 9/11, but many broke glass to get short term fresh air, only for it to accelerate the smoke inhalation.
Despite the justice, not too many people learned from the mistakes from 1993, because things got more tragic not less than 7 years later.
The 9/11 Connection
For those who believe there was some conspiracy that the networks covered up things on September 11th ought to be bullshit. Remember the 1993 bombing was isolated to the World Trade Center. Secondly technology in New York media improved, with a vast array of cameras mounted at the high rises. There is a YouTube footage from Eline Cruz featuring a liveshot of the top of 30 Rock in 1992 for a station ID, but these cameras were not really used to capture news events like the bombing.
But regardless all the major stations were dependent on the helicopters and tower cameras and the moment techs at the transmitter alerted the bases uptown that the building got disrupted yet again; there is probability the stations had some form of a plan in place to get cameras in focus and get tape decks rolling, hence why the repeated footage of 9/11 was used often, and had more on the scene video, unlike in 1993 where WCBS-TV was using the same 12:45 type of footage well into 4:00.
As previously stated the stations in the market relied on the North Tower since the 1980s, and WCBS-TV yet again was on their backup stick at ESB, using the 1960s tech. All stations got new solid state replacements and went back to Empire State months following 9/11 and got back to air, both on analog and digital. These things called “transmitters” are not mass-produced, so stations had to be triaged, according to some fuzzy memories reading Broadcasting & Cable articles from that time.
A lot of the conjecture was pure horror of the anchors and reporters who had covered the attacks on the complex 7 years before. Many were unsure who was in the WTC on 9/11 as the business day began. The 50,000 people who were in there in 1993 was confirmed stat, as opposed to 9/11 the blessing in disgusise was only under 3,000, but still 3,000 too many, and 6 too many in 1993. The 6 victims are dedicated.
The camera technology for traffic or metro vistas was not as miniaturized and now these things are as literally as Internet of Things as possible. If an LA station needs to use New York as a backdrop like during COVID, they could. If ABC News wants that Brooklyn IOT cam, they can patch that in within seconds today unlike 21 years ago or even 30 years ago when only the weather department was the only part of the station that knew what an “IP address” was!
With that said, may we not forget the atrocious day of February 26th 1993.