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On this Day… (A Reflective Moment on the Date April 15)


On this Day: April 15, … 

By: Ray Ford

I must admit that of all the timeline jargon in the virtual world of Facebook, one phrase in particular jumps out at me whenever I see it on the screen–on this day. Most use it to commemorate the life or to respectfully honor the memory of a loved one, while others use it to pay homage to an event as a sort of ceremonial acknowledgement. I tend not to use the phrase, not out of dislike, but out of personal preference. However, as I watch the deplorable events unfold in Boston with a heavy heart and dampened spirit, I am ironically inspired by this phrase. For I am now, as we all are, trapped in-between the pages of written history and will soon become the conveyors of oral history.

Like September 11, 2001, Hurricane Katrina, the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, and countless other events, we all remember where we were and what we were doing on those days. Moreover, these days have all been a catalyst for some type of social and political change, whether heightened and unconstitutional security measures, more adequate relief procedures for natural disasters, and a necessary national debate about stricter gun laws. So what is there to say on this day? Unfortunately, and as President Obama stated in his address to the nation, “we don’t yet have all the answers…we still do not know who did this or why. And people shouldn’t jump to conclusions before we have all the facts.” As I absorbed the words of the president, I was once again bombarded by that phrase, on this day, and I began thinking about this day, not just today, but this day, April 15.

It all began with the rumor of a fire and possible third explosion occurring at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. Was there some type of connection? It just so happens that today is Patriot’s Day (celebrated on the third Monday of April), which is the national observance of the American Revolution’s battles of Lexington and Concord. The first shots of the American Revolution were fired in Lexington and Paul Revere’s famous ride to warn that the British were coming led him to Lexington. John F. Kennedy, Boston, Patriot’s Day…interesting. What else?  On this day in 1961, B-26 bombers flew over Cuba in a preemptive strike to overthrow Fidel Castro and his government. Known as the Bay of Pigs Invasion, the United States, in confluence with Cuban exiles, would fail in their mission to overthrow Castro and institute an American friendly and non-communist form of government. It would later be reported that the JFK library did not experience an explosion like on the marathon route, but a fire that caused more smoke damage than anything else. Interesting…but what else?

On this day in 1927, a portion of the Great Flood occurred, where fifteen to eighteen inches of rain fell in less than a day, swelling the Mississippi river, causing flooding to occur in Mississippi, Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri, and as far north as Illinois. With racism and Jim Crow in full swing at this time, many black people were held at gunpoint and forced to sandbag and repair the levees. However, this event (one of many) helped to change the social, economic, and cultural landscape of America because it, along with the unbearable conditions of the Jim Crow south, served as push factors for blacks to migrate to northern cities—The Great Migration.

On this day in 1912, the RMS Titanic glanced an iceberg in the North Atlantic Ocean, where a reported 1400 people lost their lives. It is said that the Titanic, however luxurious, lacked an adequate number of lifeboats, and inadequate safety features, which may have allowed water to easily flood the bottom of the vessel.

On this day in 1947, Jackie Robinson started at first base for the Brooklyn Dodgers and became the first black player in Major League Baseball. Although Robinson fell victim to racial epithets and physical abuse, by his own team, the opposing teams, and fans, he endured and became one of many national figures for civil rights.

As we sit in the midst of another historical event, be mindful that we will be conveyors of what happened on this day, just as our ancestors and more immediate family members were of the Jackie Robinson’s start at first base, The Cuban Missile Crisis, The Great Flood of 1927, and the sinking of the Titanic. The Boston Marathon is not just a tradition, it is also an iconic international event, and it has been targeted for a reason. Some may call the fire at the JFK Library and Museum a diversion, not a coincidence. What that reason is, we do not know, yet. 

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