By Georgett Roberts and Leonard Greene New York Post
They were killed by evil terrorists who targeted an iconic piece of New York. They were the first, and they were the forgotten.
Today marks the 20th anniversary of the day a terrorist bomb blew out a World Trade Center parking lot and killed six victims and injured more than 1,000 people.
A noontime ceremony is planned to honor those killed.
The attack was the first dramatic demonstration that “terrorism is theater and New York is the biggest stage,” said Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.
The ceremony was being held at the 9/11 memorial that honors more than 2,700 people who died in the 2001 terrorist attack at the World Trade Center. A moment of silence will be observed at 12:18 p.m., the time when a truck bomb was detonated below the north tower.
The blast, which happened February 26, 1993, has been largely overshadowed by the 9/11 attack more than eight years later.
But the families who suffered in 1993 say they lost just as much, even if hardly anyone remembers.
“Names get read every year and the whole country watches,” said Denise Rossilli, whose father, Steve Knapp was killed that day along with John DiGiovanni, 45, Robert W. Kirkpatrick, 61, William Macko, 57, Wilfredo Mercado, 37 and Monica Rodriguez Smith, 34. “We don’t get the same honor for our dead,” Rosilli said. “We are treated differently because we are not part of 9/11.”
Mementos commemorating that tragedy will be part of the new World Trade Center Museum scheduled to open next year, including a fragment from a granite memorial fountain that was destroyed in the subsequent attack.
The fountain, inscribed with the names of the men and women killed in 1993, sat in an alcove between the north tower and the Marriott Hotel and was destroyed on 9/11.
The partial name of one of the six victims is discernible: John DiGiovanni, a dental equipment salesman from Valley Stream who was leaving the parking garage for a meeting in the World Trade Center when the bomb went off nearby.
But no artifact is more moving than the one left behind by Walter Travers, a Cantor Fitzgerald employee who escaped the North Tower through a smoke-filled staircase five hours after a truck bomb shattered the garage in 1993.
When he finally got to his New Jersey home, he hung his stained, white button-down shirt in the closet, and never wore it again. On 9/11 Travers, 44, was working in the same skyscraper when a hijacked plane hit the tower below the 104th floor where he worked.
He never made it out. After Travers’ death, his wife discovered the shirt from 1993, still covered with soot.
“Clearly, Wally had kept the shirt as a memento of that experience,” said Alice Greenwald, director of the 9/11 Memorial Museum. “He kept it as it was.”
Yvette Mercado-Rehm was just 10 when her father, Wilfredo Mercado, was killed in the blast.
“The loss to me is as same as anybody lost in 9/11,” she said.
Mercado-Rehm plans to be at the World Trade Center site today for a ceremony commemorating the anniversary.
“It doesn’t get any easier,” she said. “It hurts like it happened yesterday. It’s really that bad.”
Meanwhile, a key US informant and former aide to Omar Abdel Rahman – the mastermind of the ’93 WTC attack – urged American authorities to keep blind sheik locked up.
Rahman’s family and various Middle Eastern leaders have been lobbying US officials to release the ailing terrorist, but his one-time confidante Emad Salem said the blind sheik is still a bloodthirsty monster.
“He will kill Americans,” Salem told NBC New York. “He will kill anyone who disputes what he says with a fatwa.”
Salem, who is in witness protection, said Rahman is still trying to engineer terrorist efforts from even behind bars.
“This guy – 1990 or 2013 – sadly, unfortunately, is still in charge of his followers,” said Salem, Rahman’s former bodyguard and personal aide. “He is the ‘Prince of Jihad’ and will continue to be.”
Rahman planned and ordered the 1993 attack.
After the bombing, Salem became an US informant and linked Rahman to the deadly attack that happened 20 years ago today.
Anyone who doubts that Rahman still has murder on his mind is delusional, according to Salem.
“When are we going to wake up and smell the coffee?” Salem said. “This man is dangerous in prison. What will happen when he is out of prison?”
A Department of Justice rep said no amount of pressure will ever prompt US officials to release Rahman.
“The blind sheik will spend the rest of his life in a US federal prison — period,” said DOJ spokesman Dean Boyd.