On March 6, 1970, during preparations for the bombing of a Non-Commissioned Officers’ (NCO) dance at the Fort Dix U.S. Army base and for Butler Library at Columbia University, there was an explosion in a Greenwich Village safe house when thenail bomb being constructed prematurely detonated for unknown reasons. WUO members Diana Oughton, Ted Gold, and Terry Robbins died in the explosion. Cathy Wilkerson and Kathy Boudin escaped unharmed. It was an accident of history that the site of the Village explosion was the former residence of Merrill Lynch brokerage firm founder Charles Merrill and his son, the poet James Merrill. The younger Merrill subsequently recorded the event in his poem 18 West 11th Street, the title being the address of the house. Another writer composed a widely reprinted poem “How Does It Feel To Be Inside An Explosion”  An FBI report later stated that the group had possessed enough explosive to “level … both sides of the street”. Dustin Hoffman was seen wandering the street afterwards; he lived in the townhouse next door.
The bomb preparations have been pointed out by critics of the claim that the Weatherman group did not try to take lives with its bombings. Harvey Klehr, the Andrew W. Mellon professor of politics and history at Emory University in Atlanta, said in 2003, “The only reason they were not guilty of mass murder is mere incompetence. I don’t know what sort of defense that is.”