It’s been over 15 years since the 9/11 terror attacks occurred, the worst incident of mass violence on American soil since Pearl Harbor catapulted our country into World War II. An awful lot has changed since that terrible, fateful day. Presidential administrations came and went, the War on Terror escalated, the evil Saddam was captured in his spider’s nest hideout and the insanely more evil Osama Bin Laden was finally hunted down like a rat by Seal Team Six.
In all of that time, there have been plenty of acts of terrorism throughout the world and our country. Fortunately, there hasn’t been another attack with the scope and breadth of 9/11 but we know now we live in a world where the worst can and very well may happen- whether we guard ourselves against it or not.
Now a lot of people would like to believe that radical Islam is to blame for all of the terror incidents in our country and on our soil. That’s simply just not true, however. Those of us who remember the Oklahoma City bombings or David Koresh know perfectly well the good old U.S. of A. is perfectly capable of creating our own homegrown terrorists. And don’t even get me started on the never-ending cycle of gun violence in our country. If that’s not terrorism of a certain type then nothing is. Don’t get me wrong, Islamic extremists really do hate us with a passion and will always be the big, bad boogeymen in the corner. But they are not the only bad guys out there. The following 15 terror incidents on American soil prove that, if nothing else, evil comes in all shapes and sizes and is always out to get us.
15. Fort Hood Shooting
Radical Islam in the 21st century has become such a threat to Western ideals that it should come as no surprise that terrorists have even been created “from the inside” as they say. Such was the case with U.S. Army major Nidal Hasan, who, on November 5, 2009, decided to open fire on his friends and colleagues at Fort Hood army base in Texas. Hasan had been radicalized by his electronic communications with a militant Imam in Yemen and felt he should bring the fight to the U.S. military before it could kill more Muslims- Fort Hood was a deployment center for soldiers heading to Iraq and Afghanistan. Hasan walked into the building where he worked, sat down at a table and seemingly prayed for a moment, stood up, yelled “Allah Akbar” (“God is Great!), and opened fire. He killed 13 soldiers and wounded over 30 more, including many who tried to charge him and bring him down (firearms are not worn on Army bases). He was finally shot by a civilian police responder and is now paralyzed and awaiting execution on Death Row.
14. San Bernardino Shooting
Unfortunately the list of Islam-inspired terrorism can seem endless these days. Take for example the San Bernardino shootings in 2015, which at first seemed to be the actions of a typical American crazy person with a gun but were really a terrorist act committed by a married couple dedicated to radical Islam and willing to martyr themselves for the “cause.” Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik weren’t even part of any organized terror group like Al-Qaeda but seemingly normal people who became “poisoned” by violent teachings they had found on our wonderful world wide web. They marched into a California department of public health Christmas party on December 2, 2015 and opened fire, killing 14 and seriously wounding 22 others. They then fled the scene in their car and after a four-hour chase were gunned down by police in a standoff. These were seemingly normal people completely brainwashed by the teachings of groups like Al-Qaeda and ISIL- Farook had taken up pipe bomb making as a hobby- who caused more grief and terror than one would think possible.
13. Boston Marathon Bombing
The Boston Marathon is an American institution, a unifying sporting event that people have been enjoying and celebrating for over 100 years. So of course, in our troubled times, it was also the perfect setting for homegrown Islamic terrorists to murder three people and wound over two hundred others. It began on April 15, 2013, when the two Tsarnaev brothers, seemingly normal guys (sadly, you’ll hear that a lot in this article) planted two homemade pipe bombs along the race course in downtown Boston. The brothers had become radicalized by reading extremist Islamic literature from Al-Qaeda online (another thing you’ll hear too much of here). They had also planned to bomb Times Square but, after the bombing, went into hiding for three days. They emerged after their photos were shared on the news, killing a MIT campus cop and hijacking a car in an attempt to escape the Boston area. One brother was killed in a shootout with police responding to the carjacking (his brother ran him over as he escaped) and the second brother was eventually captured after a massive manhunt. He was convicted on all 31 federal counts brought against him.
12. J.P. Morgan Bank Bombing
J.P. Morgan has long been one of the most influential banks on Wall Street. So it will probably come as no surprise that it was also the site of a horrible terror attack that seems to have been directed against the system of rich autocrats suppressing the common man. I say seems because this is one of those ones where no one knows to this day who was actually responsible. On September 16, 1920, during the lunch hour, a monstrous bomb exploded outside of the bank, which was just across the street from an office of the U.S. Treasury department. A horse-drawn wagon, heavily laden, had been left on the street and apparently no one thought anything of it. They should have, as it carried 100 lbs. of dynamite and also metal shavings. 38 people were killed and over 300 wounded. The only evidence as to who did it were some flyers distributed by “American Anarchist Fighters” and the way the bomb itself was made- both of those things appeared to be in the style of an Italian American anarchist leader named Luigi Galleani. As Galleani had already been deported, it was never proven that he or his followers had done it.
11. 1993 World Trade Center Bombing
It’s a terrible testament to our times that this list is going to begin and end with two separate attacks on the same building in the span of less than 10 years. The only real difference in the two is that second one was successful- in the eyes of the terrorists, at least. We all know all about 9/11 and the destruction of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. But on February 26, 1993, a truck carrying a 1,200 lb. bomb was parked in a garage underneath the World Trade Center. Shortly after noon it went off, killing six people and wounding over 1,000 more. Upward of 50,000 people were evacuated from the towers. The leader of the terrorist cell that planned and carried out the attack, Ramzi Yousef, claimed that they did it to “avenge” the Palestinian people for their suffering from U.S. backed state of Israel. Six of the seven terrorists were caught and sentenced to multiple life terms in prison- one of them even stated in court that he was “proud” to be a terrorist.
10. Charleston Church Shooting
On June 17, 2015, psychotic freak and white supremacist Dylan Roof calmly walked into the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina and opened fire on a church service. He was, of course, targeting black churchgoers because, as he later stated, he wanted to start a “race war.” What he did instead was murder nine completely innocent people and wound three others for no good reason; people who had never done anything to him. Roof was a seriously bad guy and a terrorist extraordinaire, one who had published anti-black manifestos on his web page and wrote a self-serving journal about his hate crimes while in jail. The federal government felt the same way, sentencing him to 33 counts of hate crimes as well as the possibility of execution. The state of Carolina also convicted him on nine counts of murder. The worst part of it all is that the Emanuel Church has been a center for community activism and civil rights awareness for years.
9. New Orleans HOJO’s Shooting
Unfortunately, the U.S. has all kinds of crazy, homegrown terrorist individuals- we don’t need radicals from other lands messing with us when we have people like Mark Essex right here at home. In 1973, the wanna-be Black Panther decided that he hated the police and wanted revenge for “Africa.” So he did what any normal person would do- he went to New Orleans and began a week long sniper hunt for Nola cops. It started on New Year’s Eve when he attacked and killed an officer outside of a city police station. He escaped and hid out for almost a week before reappearing at the city’s Howard Johnson’s hotel, where he started shooting at hotel guests, police officers, and anyone else who got in his way. He managed to kill nine people and wound 13 more during his rampage. Essex, who had been loosely associated with the Black Panthers both in San Francisco and New York City, was finally gunned down on the roof of the hotel after an hours long standoff. As always with crazy people, his true motives made no sense, as the very first police officer he killed was black.
8. San Francisco Bombing
Before the U.S. entered the First World War there was an awful lot of isolationist sympathy and significant portions of the American populace did not support the war at all. City planners in San Francisco, a historically liberal city, bucked that trend by hosting a Preparedness Day Parade on July 22, 1916 – basically it was a rally for the war effort. This literally backfired on them when a bomb went off during the massive parade, about 30 minutes after it started. The bomb killed 10 bystanders and wounded 40 more. Two labor organizers (think of the Wobblies and other early union groups like that) were arrested and charged with the bombing. The trial was so corrupt, so full of bought jurors and fake witnesses that the president (yes, the president) had to ask the governor of California to look into it. The two men were ultimately exonerated of all the charges that had been brought against them. No one has ever been able to discover who the real terrorists were who brought death and despair to an American city long before 9/11.
7. La Guardia Airport Bombing
Another act of terror in an American city, another bombing, has also never been solved. About 60 years after the San Francisco bombing, a bomb went off in the central terminal of La Guardia airport in New York City on December 29, 1975. It was such a massive explosion that some eyewitnesses thought a plane had crashed into the building (and doesn’t that sound horribly familiar?). Since terrorists are always terrible in their creativity it should come as no surprise that the bomb was placed in a row of metal lockers near baggage claim so that the maximum amount of shrapnel would hit the maximum amount of people. 11 were killed and 75 wounded. No one ever took credit for the bombing and police and the FBI followed multiple leads, some legitimate, some hoaxes, in their helpless quest to find the bomber. Many people believed that the PLO did it, although the PLO itself strongly denied doing so. Others to this day believe it may have been Croatian nationalists, although that is a theory with many holes in it.
6. Haymarket Square Bombing
For our next terror attack we shift our focus to Chicago and our time frame all the way back to 1886. Government and big business in America have always had a touchy relationship with organized labor and unions. We have a long history of violence on both sides of that equation. So it should come as no surprise that, during a labor rally in Chicago’s Haymarket Square, a massive contingent of police were called out to quell the protestors. Somebody among the protestors threw a homemade bomb at the cops and in return the cops opened fire. When the bullets stopped flying 12 people were dead and over 60 wounded. Now make no mistake, throwing a bomb to achieve political ends, in this case the protest for justice for workers, is definitely an act of terror. Unfortunately, the Chicago police reacted to extreme violence with their own. In typical fashion for these things (remember ‘Frisco?) 31 labor leaders were arrested, there was a show trial, four were executed and then the governor stepped in and commuted the sentences of those that were left. They were all later fully pardoned- yay America!
5. Los Angeles Times Bombing
It seems that, if we’re not talking about Islamic acts of terrorism then we must be talking about organized labor ones. A case in point would be the bombing of the Los Angeles Times building on October 21, 1910, a bombing that killed 21 people and wounded 20 more. At the time the publisher of the Times, Harrison Otis, was seriously anti-union and anti-labor. He had been writing and publishing anti-labor editorials for months. He was also the leader of a local consortium of politically connected businessman. Otis had a right to be paranoid. Investigators traced the bombing to John McNamara, the treasurer of the local Ironworkers union. Even McNamara’s own lawyer, the famous Clarence Darrow (who gained even more notoriety in the Scope’s “Monkey Trial”), found out during his own investigation that the union leader was guilty. The defense was able to plead guilty in exchange for commuting the death penalty for McNamara. It’s amazing how often labor issues have led to terror acts in our country.
4. Orlando Nightclub Shooting
And back we go to radical Islam… On June 12, 2016, a crazy homegrown terrorist named Omar Mateen decided that he needed to support ISIL and get revenge for the deaths of ISIL “soldiers.” To that end, he attacked a gay-centric nightclub in Orlando named Pulse. I know, doesn’t make much sense, does it? Terror often doesn’t. Mateen, who called the Boston Marathon bombers his “homeboys,” walked into the club during last call and opened fire, killing 49 and wounding 53. During his attack many witnesses heard him ranting about unjust U.S. practices against ISIL and his desire to get revenge for “his country.” He was also heard saying the U.S. needed to get out of Syria and Iraq. The police engaged in a standoff/firefight for much of the early morning hours until they finally managed to break into the building and gun him down.
3. Oklahoma City Bombing
Timothy McVeigh. Terry Nichols. The Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. These are names that will always resonate with all of us. Unfortunately, not in a good way though. On April 19, 1995, the truck bomb that McVeigh and Nichols had constructed exploded outside the building, killing 169 people and wounding almost 700 more. It was the worst attack to ever take place on U.S. soil up until that point. McVeigh was a former U.S. army soldier and Gulf War veteran who had become radicalized toward the “Militia” movement, a loose conglomeration of groups who hated the U.S. government and all it represented and who thought the Feds were trying to take away their rights. He was inspired by the Waco and Ruby ridge incidents to go into action against the government, hoping to incite a revolt. Of course, when he blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City, he also destroyed or damaged over 300 other buildings in the city that had nothing to do with the government. McVeigh was executed in 2001, Nichols, who helped procure the supplies and build the bomb, was sentenced to life in prison.
2. Egypt Air Flight #990 Crash
Well, if the Oklahoma City bombing was the worst of its time to occur on American soil, the crash of Egypt Air flight #990 was the worst to occur in air. Although it has never been 100% confirmed, investigations into the crash, which occurred off Nantucket on October 31, 1999, have almost certainly proven that the copilot of the plane caused the crash on purpose. The flight, which had been scheduled from Los Angeles to Cairo, killed all 217 people onboard. The National Transportation Safety Board determined that the copilot, Gameel Al-Batouti, had been chanting in Arabic “I rely on God,” a phrase other terrorists have used. He took over the controls of the plane and put it into a dive on purpose. He also struggled with the captain when he returned to the cockpit and realized what Batouti had done. No one will ever know for sure what Batouti intended but it for sure looks like terrorism.
What can be said about September 11, 2001 that hasn’t already been said? Like the Kennedy assassination, the moon landing or the Challenger explosion, people will always remember where they were that day and the shock and grief they experienced as the first horrible reports and images started rolling in. The raw numbers are staggering in their awfulness- almost 3,000 dead Americans. Over 9,000 wounded. That’s more casualties than D-Day and almost as many as the entire American Revolution. Sure, America did finally get a measure of revenge with the murder of Osama Bin Laden, the militant Islamist responsible for planning the attacks. But America also got a 10-year war in Iraq and an eternal “War on Terror” in the bargain as well. 9/11 is truly a day that will live in infamy in the American psyche forever.