Yesterday, April 19, I turned 49. With 50 on the horizon, it’s best to beat y’all to the Grim Reaper jokes. Moreover, I was sincerely moved with all the email and facebook shoutouts on my big day. It was a very tangible reminder of how BLESSED I truly am to have the friends I cherish. It’s a good thing… ’cause I don’t know if you realize it, but April 19th ain’t a very “happy day” otherwise. Aside from being a day short of Adolf Hitler’s birthday (1889) and the Columbine High School tragedy (1999), the 19th of April has a rather ignominious place in history. Let’s discuss…
At 5 a.m., British troops marched into Lexington, Mass. to capture what then would have been considered leaders of the colonial rebellion, and the rebels’ cache of weapons. They were met by 77 Massachusetts minutemen who put on a valiant defense, with the belligerents firing the first shots of the Revolutionary War, more than a year before independence.
The first combat deaths in the Civil War happened not in the South, but in Baltimore. That’s where a group of secessionist Baltimoreans attacked Union troops from Massachusetts who were en route to Washington, D.C. Four soldiers and a dozen “rioters” died in the incident.
In response to Jewish resistance in Poland, the Waffen SS set upon the Warsaw ghetto with the full strength of the German military. The resistance held out for 28 days and suffered more than 56,000 deaths before the Nazis razed the remaining buildings and put down the uprising.
The big opening act of the Moscow Circus: clowning out about the Marshall Plan. Evidently, “one of the most famous Russian clowns, Konstantin Berman,” compared the economic recovery package to a boomerang of money for the U.S., and called the Voice of America a pack of barking dogs. Jokes, eh?
South Dakota governor George Mickelson and seven others are killed when a state-owned aircraft crashes in Iowa.
Ending a 51-day siege of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, the FBI launched an assault using tear-gas grenades when David Koresh and his followers continued to refuse to evacuate. The basis of the standoff was an ATF investigation into illegal stockpiling of firearms and explosives. Following the tear gas incident, fires erupted within the main building, leading to the deaths of 80 cult members.
As a response to the 1993 raid, Timothy McVeigh, with the help of Terry Nichols, parked a Ryder truck filled with explosives outside the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. The resulting explosion killed 168 people.
Then there was this year. The day before, pop culture legend Dick Clark passed away. As Johnny Carson was to late-night television, Clark was to New Year’s Eve. And in an era before the instant impact of the Internet, “American Bandstand” transmitted youth culture from coast-to-coast before anyone realized what was happening.
Then on the 19th, Levon Helm of The Band lost his 14-year battle with throat cancer. The lone Southerner in a Canadian band, Helm was the pork in The Band’s green beans — giving the group that necessary flavor. In a tribute to never giving up, he won Grammys in 2008 and 2010 for his last two albums.
But the day’s not all bad. After all, this guy was born on April 19th in 1963, and I seem to be doing OK… With a little help from my friends, that is. Thanks again folks!
by J.L. Mann Cromer, Jr., who served as the only true independent member of the South Carolina General Assembly from 1990-1998. Currently, he is a general practice attorney in Columbia, S.C., concentrating in probate and estate planning, criminal defense and personal injury law.