When terrorists attacked the symbolic center of American economic power on September 11 it wasn’t the first time:
On 16 September 1920, throngs of brokers, clerks, and office workers poured from the buildings lining New York City’s Wall Street as a nearby church bell struck twelve o’clock. The narrow cobblestone street became a river of sputtering automobiles and scurrying pedestrians as the financial district employees set out to make the most of their mid-day break.
Traveling opposite the egressing crowds, an elderly bay horse plodded along Wall Street pulling a nondescript wagon and a driver. The cart came to a stop just around the corner from the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), across the street from the imposing JP Morgan & Co. bank building. The wagon’s driver cast the reins aside, leaped from his perch, and fled from the street with conspicuous haste. As the lunch-going men and women shuffled past the parked wooden cart and its patiently waiting horse, a timer within the cargo compartment quietly counted off its final few seconds.
At approximately one minute after twelve o’clock, the abandoned wagon’s timer reached zero in the pleasant afternoon sun. A bomb consisting of one hundred pounds of dynamite packed with five hundred pounds of cast-iron slugs violently vomited red-hot shrapnel and destruction in every direction. A number of passers-by were instantly vaporized by the extreme heat and pressure. The blast sent a nearby automobile careening through the air as countless jagged iron fragments ripped through the crowd. The nearby structures trembled as the shock wave slammed into their outer walls with tremendous force, shattering windows and turning lobbies into lacerating hailstorms of glass. Many of the cloth awnings which overlooked the street burst into flames. Within a half-mile radius thousands of plate-glass windows burst in the city’s tall buildings, peppering the streets of Lower Manhattan with razor-sharp glass shards. (Alan Bellows)
Forty dead, another 300 wounded. Gruesome scenes of slaughter and dismemberment. Panic. Choking smoke. Rumors of more bombs. Attention immediately turned to Italian immigrants. Everyone knew they were “out to destroy our way of life”:
The Washington Post referred to the bombing as an “act of war,” though no one could be certain who the enemy was. The newspaper also wrote, “The bomb outrage in New York emphasizes the extent to which the alien scum from the cesspools and sewers of the Old World has polluted the clear spring of American democracy.” Though the anarchists had not been proven responsible, the US government’s ongoing anti-radical Palmer Raids were increased in intensity as a consequence of the bombing. Immigrants were aggressively targeted, especially Italians, Russians, and Jews. Thousands of citizens were detained in the name of national security, though most of them clearly had nothing to do with the Wall Street terror plot. Ultimately, the orgy of misguided justice resulted in the deportation of about 10,000 such “radicals.”
The stock exchange reopened the following day to emphasize the city would not be cowed and was conducting “business as usual.” There ws an orgy of patriotic display. No arrests were ever made. To this day we don’t know who did it but one leading theory says it was a botched robbery.
There is no plaque at the site of the biggest terrorist attack on US soil prior to September 11, 2001. Rudi Giuliani and Joe Lieberman now lead the lynch mob. The persecuted have become persecutors.
Italian terrorists still haunt us. Except now we call them Muslims.