The past remains integral to us all, individually and collectively. We must concede the ancients their place, but their place is not simply back there in a separate and foreign country; it is assimilated in ourselves, and resurrected into an ever-changing present.
1547 – King Henry VIII died at the age of 55. His last words were allegedly “Monks! Monks! Monks!” which might seem strange at face value but makes more sense when you consider the Dissolution of the Monasteries, one of the most revolutionary events in English history, in which Henry VIII disbanded monasteries, priories, convents and friaries in England and Wales and Ireland, appropriated their income and disposed of their assets.
Many remember Henry VIII’s daughter as “Bloody Mary,” a reference to the more than 300 Protestants the staunchly Catholic Mary I had put to death during her five-year reign. In truth, though, Henry was by far the bloodiest Tudor ruler, ordering tens of thousands of executions during his 37-year reign.
1922 – A blizzard dumped a measured 28 inches of snow at the main observing site in Washington, D.C. Railroad lines between Philadelphia and Washington were covered by at least 36 inches of snow, with drifts as high as 16 feet. Congress adjourned as a result of the storm, but the storm will always be remembered for the collapse of the Knickerbocker Theatre roof while a movie was playing.
The roof was flat, which allowed the snow which had recently fallen to remain on the roof. During the movie’s intermission – in a storm like that, why was anyone at the movies? – the weight of the heavy, wet snow became too much for the roof to bear. The roof split down the middle, bringing down the balcony seating as well as a portion of the brick wall, killing 98 people and injuring another 133.
The disaster ranks as one of the worst in Washington, D.C. history. Congressman Andrew Jackson Barchfeld was among those killed in the theater. The theater’s architect, Reginald Wyckliffe Geare, and owner, Harry M. Crandall, later committed suicide.
1956 – Elvis Presley appeared on national television for the first time on The Dorsey Brothers Stage Show. Comedian and Stage Show producer Jackie Gleason said afterward, “The kid has no right behaving like a sex maniac on a national show. He can’t last. I tell you flatly, he can’t last.“
1964 – A USAF T-39 Sabreliner flying over West Germany on a training mission veered nearly 100 miles off course when the pilots became disoriented by a violent storm and crossed into East German airspace. The jet was shot down by a Soviet MiG-19 near Vogelsberg, killing all three aboard; Captain John F. Lorraine, 34, an instructor pilot; Lieut. Colonel Gerald K. Hannaford, 41; and Captain Donald G. Millard, 33.
The Soviet attack on the plane provoked angry protests from the Department of State and various congressional leaders, but the Soviets said they had every reason to believe that ”this was not an error or mistake. It was a clear intrusion.” Soviet officials also claimed that the plane was ordered to land but refused the instructions.
1973 – Actor John Banner (best known for his role as lovable Sergeant Schultz in the television comedy Hogan’s Heroes) died from an abdominal hemorrhage on his 63rd birthday.
Banner – born to Jewish parents in Vienna – was performing with an acting troupe in Switzerland in 1938 when Adolf Hitler annexed Austria to Nazi Germany. Banner escaped to the United States and later learned that his family members who had remained in Vienna perished in Nazi concentration camps.
Asked how he could play the role of Schultz considering his family’s fate, Banner defended his character, telling TV Guide in 1967, “Schultz is not a Nazi. I see Schultz as the representative of some kind of goodness in any generation.“
1977 – The Blizzard of 1977 started in Western N.Y. state, upstate New York and Southern Ontario and continued until February 1. Daily peak wind gusts ranged from 46 to 69 mph with snowfall as high as 100 inches. The high winds blew those already staggering amounts of snow into drifts of 30 to 40 feet. There were 23 total storm-related deaths in western New York, with 5 more in northern New York.
1985 – More than 45 artists, with egos put aside, recorded ‘We Are The World‘ at A&M Recording Studios in Los Angeles. When it was released on March 7, 1985, the song – co-written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie – topped music charts throughout the world and became the fastest-selling American pop single in history.
Sales, promotion and merchandise aided the success of ‘We Are The World’ and raised over $63 million (equivalent to $141 million today) for humanitarian aid.
1986 – After a delay of five days because of weather problems and technical issue, the space shuttle Challenger lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida at 11:38 a.m. EST.
Seventy-three seconds later, hundreds on the ground stared in disbelief as the shuttle exploded in a forking plume of smoke and fire. Millions more watched the wrenching tragedy unfold on live television. There were no survivors.
On the night of the disaster, President Ronald Reagan had been scheduled to give his annual State of the Union address. He postponed the address for a week and instead spoke to the nation from the Oval Office of the White House.
He finished by quoting from the poem High Flight by John Gillespie Magee, Jr.: “We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and ‘slipped the surly bonds of Earth’ to ‘touch the face of God.‘”
1999 – After an extraordinary personal appeal from Pope John Paul II, Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan, a supporter of capital punishment, commuted the death sentence of Darrell J. Mease, a convicted triple murderer, to life in prison without parole.
In an incredible twist of fate, Carnahan died in a plane crash the following year.
Compiled by Ray Lemire ©2018 RayLemire.com. All Rights Reserved.