In less than the blink of an eye, the blast of eight tightly-bound sticks of dynamite shattered the brittle wooden shell of the building hastily constructed during the Second World War, adding jagged splinters and rusting nails to the shrapnel that ripped through cheap tables and chairs, taffeta and chiffon, uniforms, and flesh.
Before the concussive shock waves reverberated off nearby buildings, half a dozen human beings closest to the outside wall of the NCO Club became mist.
The roof, lifted skyward by the explosion and suddenly absent a supporting wall as it returned to earth, crashed down on the dead and dying. Leaking bottles from the shattered bar fed the rapidly spreading flames, and deafened, dazed and bleeding survivors crawled or stumbled towards escape in ones and twos.
As soldiers from nearby buildings ran to help the bleeding and burned, a carefully-crafted 12″ pipe-bomb studded with roofing nails hidden in a nearby trash can went off, turning rescuers into additional victims.
Just outside Fort Dix confused onlookers sat in stunned amazement, as a pair of nondescript young women nervously laughed and counted ambulances for a half hour before losing count and heading back to the townhouse in Greenwich Village. The message had been sent.
Though he would have no way of knowing it at the time, the Weatherman’s attack on the non-commissioned officer’s dance would stand as the deadliest act of terrorism on U.S. soil for 25 years, 1 month, and 13 days, until Timothy McVeigh drove into Oklahoma City and infamy.