Reverberations of a Bomb: a Year Later

Even people caught in N.Y. blast neglect details of the trial now heading for a decision by jury

TED BECKER, a banker, remembers the walk down 95 floors of Number One World Trade Center. ``It took 2 1/2 hours and the last 33 floors were in total darkness.''

James B., an administrator, recalls coming down 44 floors of the same tower, exiting through the smoke-filled lobby and then running six blocks before he realized it was snowing and he had on no coat or jacket. ``Suddenly I was freezing,'' he remembers.

On the 70th floor of Number Two World Trade Center, Tim Lee, a public relations man, started walking down a pitch dark stairwell. ``I said, `This is more dangerous than being upstairs and turned around,' '' he recalls.

Everyone who was in the World Trade Center twin towers a year ago has a vivid recollection about the Feb. 26 blast. However, the response is different when one asks the same people about the trial of the people accused of the bombing.

Says Mr. Becker: ``I don't have the slightest idea.'' James: ``No names, please,'' as he shakes his head no. And Mr. Lee says he looks at the headlines.

Becker says he hasn't followed the trial because he thought the government had an ``open and shut case.''

Only time will tell if he is right. The case finally went to the jury Wednesday in the federal district court in Manhattan after Judge Kevin Duffy thanked the jurors for their attentiveness.

No matter what the verdict, there are still plenty of unanswered questions. For example, during the trial there was a reference to a terrorist training camp. There were Saudi Arabian fax numbers in the bomb manuals presented as evidence. Is there Saudi money behind any of the terrorists and their camps?

It is also not clear what role Iraq might have had in the bombing. One of the alleged conspirators, Ramzi Yousef, referred to as an ``evil genius'' by a defense counsel, is now thought to be in Iraq with a second conspirator, Abdul Yasin. They both left the United States shortly after the bombing, and the US is offering a bounty of $2 million for each man.

The jury also heard a lot of testimony about the various explosives used in the bombing. Most of the ingredients could be purchased from chemical companies or garden supply stores. Should Congress look at the accessibility of such chemicals?

The trial also revealed how Mr. Yousef used US immigration laws to gain entrance to the US through the asylum process.

The alleged terrorists also displayed a knack for fooling other countries. Mohammad Salameh, one of the defendants, got the Dutch consulate in New York to issue him a visa after presenting his passport and an airline ticket for an infant, M. Salmeh. He planned to leave the country the day after he was arrested.

The jury will not be looking at these issues. They will simply be determining whether the prosecution proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt. It might be up to Congress or another organization to look at the lessons from the bombing.

Mayor Rudolph Giuliani plans to speak about the bombing this weekend when the city holds a commemorative service for the six workers who lost their lives in the blast. He believes the bombing demonstrates that the city is not immune to the world's political pressures.

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