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Terrorism expert meets with Rotary

February 06, 2003|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

FBI agent David Williams arrived in Oklahoma City about 12 hours after bomber Timothy McVeigh blew up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, killing 168 people, including 19 children.

He saw small, bloodied handprints of youngsters amid the crumbling pieces of building.

"There were arms, ears and fingers laying around," Williams, an FBI forensic explosives expert, said Wednesday afternoon. "That's terrorism."

As part of the investigation, Williams said he sent authorities to the morgue with the job of pulling fragments from the blast out of the bodies of those who had been killed.

The Oklahoma City bombing was one of several terrorist acts Williams discussed with the Rotary Club of Hagerstown at the Venice Inn.

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Williams has traveled across the world to investigate a number of terrorist activities, including the bombings of Pan Am Flight 103, which exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988; the U.S. Embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in 1998; and at the World Trade Center in New York City in 1993.

He said walking into the parking deck of the World Trade Center in 1993 was "like walking into a cave."

Terrorists had placed a bomb on a parking level below the World Trade Center. When it went off, it claimed the lives of six people and injured more than 1,000. The explosion left a crater 126 feet wide and five stories deep, Williams said.

The blast badly damaged Tower One, and crews had to erect steel beams to hold it up to complete the investigation, he said.

Williams said that blast was so sudden that two men who were killed still had food in their mouths. He testified in court that one of the men had fragments from the explosion in his eyes but not in his eyelids.

He said that "suggests he didn't have time to blink before he died."

Williams also spoke of the ease of making explosives and said bomb recipes can be found on the Internet and in books on the shelves of libraries.

Some explosives can be detonated with matches rather than blasting caps, he said.

Convicted shoe bomber Richard Reid had powdered explosives in the soles of his sneakers and small, black fuses protruding from the shoes, Williams said.

Reid, who tried to light the fuses with a match aboard an American Airlines flight last year, was sentenced last month to life in prison.

Williams said the shoe bombs would have caused the plane to crash because Reid was sitting over the fuel line.

"It would have taken that craft out of the sky," Williams said.

Rotary Club President Darrell Fowler and member Tom DiGirolamo described Williams' presentation as eye-opening. DiGirolamo was responsible for bringing Williams to Hagerstown.

"It was very eye-opening, in as far as how easy it is for some of these bombs to be made," Fowler said.

He called Williams a hero for carrying out his line of work.

"He is a hero for doing his job," Fowler said. "He is a true patriot."

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