WeathermEn Bomb Factory

11th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues is a quiet, leafy block in Greenwich Village. At 18 West 11th Street, one house juts out towards the sidewalk, breaking the continuity of the mid-19th century townhouses that line the rest of the street.
Just before noon, on March 7th, 1970, the house that stood on this spot was destroyed in a tremendous explosion.
Dustin Hoffman was at home with his wife, two doors down- here he stands in the street, surveying the damage.

Susan Wager, Henry Fonda's ex wife, was doing laundry in her basement up the street when the explosion happened. "a real quaver ran through the ground," she said later. She ran out on the street and saw two young women covered in soot- they had managed to escape the fire that was raging in the ruined building. One of them was completely naked- she had been taking a shower when the explosion happened. Wager took them back to her house and gave them clothes. She went out in the street for a moment, and when she returned, they were gone.

The women were later identified as Catherine Wilkerson and Kathy Boudin, both in their 20's. Both were out on bail for assaulting a police officer in Chicago. And both were known to be members of the Weathermen, or Weather Underground- a radical student political organization.

Three bodies were eventually found in the remains of the townhouse, all Weathermen members.

One of the bodies was Theodore Gold, who had been a leader of the student takeover at Columbia University in 1968. The Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) were major organizers of these protests. The Weathermen were a radical offshoot of the SDS. The name comes from the Bob Dylan song Subterranean Homesick Blues: "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows..." In a move of political correctness, they later changed the name to the "Weather Underground".

In the wreckage, the police found blasting caps, pipe bombs, 60 sticks of dynamite, and an antitank shell. It soon became clear that this had been a bomb factory- someone had accidentally detonated a device they were working on. It was later revealed that their target was an officer's dance at Fort Dix, N.J.

It seems fitting that this house juts out into the street a little rudely. It's a reminder of the disturbance that rocked this block thirty years ago.
Incidentally, Kathy Boudin, the girl who ran naked from the house, continued to associate with members of the Weather Underground. In 1981, a Brinks truck was robbed in Nyack, NJ. Two police officers and a security guard were killed. Boudin wasn't present at the robbery, but she was in the getaway car. For her role, she was sentenced to twenty years to life. After 22 years in prison, she was recently denied parole.

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