17-47 Segment 1: Terrorism in America, 1920

 

Over 95 years ago, New York City was the target of a terrorist attack that has yet to be solved. No suspects have ever been named in the attack that killed or injured over 400 Wall Street bystanders. In contrast to the attacks of September 11th, which occurred just around the corner from the 1920 bombing, this deadly event has been all but erased from the collective American consciousness.   

Jed Rubenfeld’s work of historical fiction, The Death Instinct, brings the 1920 bombing back to life. Although some characters and plot elements are fictionalized, Rubenfeld carefully matches historical details and events to accurately convey the context and sentiment surrounding what at the time was the deadliest terrorist attack in the world.

World War I had ended and the Depression was taking form, creating a society of lawlessness. Rubenfeld contends that there was further reasoning behind the bombing than just spreading terror. There was a billion dollars in gold being transferred from one vault to another at the exact time the attack took place, but authorities deny this was anything more than coincidence. At this point, the 1920 attack will likely never be solved, but Rubenfeld explores his own resolution in The Death Instinct.

Guest:

  • Jed Rubenfeld, author of The Death Instinct

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