THERE ARE NIGHTS when Frank Powell still sees the bomb drop, when he watches it plummet past his feet and through the warm spring air. Sometimes it hits the bunker and explodes; sometimes it lands on the roof. Occasionally it misses the roof entirely and is swept off into oblivion. Some nights it contains two pounds of explosives; other nights there are ten pounds or a hundred. When he wakes up, he realizes that it was just the dream coming back again.
But it was more than a dream. When it was all over, Lieutenant Frank Powell, the acting commander of the police bomb squad, a supervisor who was known for always doing things by the book, would be remembered for this single desperate act. He would be remembered as the man who dropped the bomb.
The scene would be replayed again and again, on television sets in Philadelphia and throughout the world: the helicopter hovering forty-five feet above the tiny row house, the lone figure of Powell leaning out of its open hatch; the bag dropping toward the roof; the long seconds of silence followed by the explosion—a bright orange ball of flame; a hailstorm of lumber and debris; a slowly clearing cloud of dust.
And then wisps of white smoke, wafting silently into the blue afternoon sky…