For those of you who aren’t history nerds, the week of April 14 through April 21 hosts some of the most tragically iconic moments in our modern times (I promise we’re not going before the American Revolution here).
Who knows why mid-April brings about such chaos and bloodshed, perhaps it’s the release pent up energy after a long winter or maybe it’s just a bizarre coincidence? And then again, it could all be a part something much bigger, like aliens.
Just joking, this isn’t going to serve as some wild conspiracy theory post. Rather, it’ll be a brief (OK, that’s probably a lie), enlightening journey through time.
Let’s get started before any of you bros doze off:
Better known by historians as the day Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in Ford Theater by John Wilkes Booth, April 14 has been a day marked by innovation (Webster’s Dictionary, videotape and Volvo all made their respective debuts on this day) and celebration (it is the New Year in many southeast Asian countries, such as Burma, Cambodia, Laos and Nepal).
However, the day is forever stained by Booth’s cowardly actions in 1865. Interestingly enough, four years earlier the Battle of Fort Sumter concluded in South Carolina as the Union surrendered to the Confederacy to mark the beginning of the American Civil War.
If the shooting of Lincoln wasn’t enough tragedy for this calendar day, April 14 is also home to the sinking of the RMS Titanic. That’s right pop culture nuts, the famous cruise liner struck an ice burg at 11:40 p.m. on the night of the 14th in what would become one of the most deadliest peacetime maritime disasters in modern history.
Trust me, it gets weirder…
After getting plugged in the back of the head on the 14th, Lincoln succumbed to his fatal wound on morning of the 15th and the nation lost the greatest leader its ever known. Subsequently, the Titanic also sunk the morning of the 15th, hours after striking that damn iceberg and 1,500 lives were lost at sea.
And if you think the tragedies stop here for the day that has become Tax Day in America, then you’re sorely mistaken.
The Hillsborough disaster at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, England took the lives of 96 in what remains the worst stadium-related disaster in British history. In addition to the deceased, 766 others were injured in the human crush that took place during the FA Cup semi-final match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forrest in 1989.
Sports and history have really seemed to collide on this day, as April 15 is also Jackie Robinson Day in Major League baseball. It will also be the day Americans remember the attacks near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, which left three people dead and injuring 264.
Here’s an up-lifter before things get worse: McDonalds opened its first ever restaurant in Des Plaines, Illinois on April 15, 1955.
The Virginia Tech massacre happened only seven years ago on this date, and remains most fresh in our minds when discussing April 16 tragedies. I mean, what could really top 32 killed and 17 wounded in what is the deadliest shooting incident by a single gunman in US history? Well, I’m glad you asked…
In 1947, the worst harbor explosion in US history occurred in Texas City, Texas, when a French ship, carrying ammonium nitrate fertilizer, caught fire and blew up. The next day another ship exploded — not a French ship for anyone wondering at home. The combined explosions resulted in fires that killed more than 500 people and injured at least another 250. Two hundred more went missing.
OK, I lied; we’re going pre-American Revolution here for a second. In 1492, Christopher Columbus signed his contract with Spain that said he would find a passage to Asia and the Indies. We know now that he never found it, but what he did find — America and the New World — was a lot better than some dinky passageway.
Back to modern times: in 1961, about 1,400 US-supported (CIA trained) Cuban exiles invaded Cuba at the Bay of Pigs in an attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro. For those who flunked history, it was an unsuccessful attack and a disastrous embarrassment for our government.
Also of interest, two former LAPD officers were finally charged with violating the civil rights of Rodney King on this day in 1993. King became a national celebrity after five cops beat him, following a high-speed car chase in March 1991. Four officers were charged and acquitted in 1992, which sparked the Los Angeles riots in which 58 people were killed.
The 18th is probably the lightest day of the week in terms of history…it was only home to a devastating earthquake in 1906 that produced severe fires and threatened the very existence of San Francisco. The raging flames engulfed the city and took more than 3,000 lives.
Unfortunately, the tragedies continue as the 19th was marred by the 1995 domestic terrorist attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City by the cowards Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols. The bombing killed 168 and injured 680 others, and was the most destructive act of terrorism on US soil until 9/11. In total, 324 buildings within a 16-block radius were destroyed or damaged.
To tie back into the Boston Marathon events on the 15th, the race was first run on April 19, 1897.
More than a hundred years before, the American Revolutionary War began with the battles of Lexington and Concord in 1775.
Besides being the official holiday for stoners around the globe, 4/20 is a day that is tarnished in infamous events. None more discussed than the 1889 birth of Adolf Hitler, who, as we all know, went on to become radical dictator of Germany, sparking World War II and altering the trajectory of mankind in the 20th and 21st centuries. Other than that, he was just your average fascist ruler.
In more recent times, 4/20 is known for the school shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado in 1999. Two students charged into the suburban high school’s cafeteria at lunchtime and killed 13 people, while wounding dozens more in what was at the time the nation’s deadliest school massacre.
Finally, we get a breather and get to something positive after all that soul-crushing bleakness. On this date in 1836, a group of Texans, led by Sam Houston, finally won their independence from Mexico at the Battle of San Jacinto.
Oh yea, and in 1910, Mark Twain (born Samuel Clemens) died in Redding, Connecticut.