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Today In History – April 19 – Oklahoma City Bombing





1775: The American Revolution begins: At about 5 a.m., 700 British troops, on a mission to capture Patriot leaders and seize a Patriot arsenal, march into Lexington to find 77 armed minutemen under Captain John Parker waiting for them on the town’s common green. British Major John Pitcairn ordered the outnumbered Patriots to disperse, and after a moment’s hesitation the Americans began to drift off the green. Suddenly, the “shot heard around the world” was fired from an undetermined gun, and a cloud of musket smoke soon covered the green. When the brief Battle of Lexington ended, eight Americans lay dead or dying and 10 others were wounded. Only one British soldier was injured, but the American Revolution had begun. More here

1861: First blood in the Civil War: On April 19, 1861, the first blood of the American Civil War is shed when a secessionist mob in Baltimore attacks Massachusetts troops bound for Washington, D.C. Four soldiers and 12 rioters were killed. More here

1897: First Boston Marathon held: On April 19, 1897, John J. McDermott of New York won the first Boston Marathon with a time of 2:55:10. The Boston Marathon was the brainchild of Boston Athletic Association member and inaugural U.S. Olympic team manager John Graham, who was inspired by the marathon at the first modern Olympic Games in Athens in 1896. With the assistance of Boston businessman Herbert H. Holton, various routes were considered, before a measured distance of 24.5 miles from the Irvington Oval in Boston to Metcalf’s Mill in Ashland was eventually selected. More here

1902: Earthquake rocks Guatemala: The last and most powerful in a series of earthquakes rocks Western Guatemala on this day in 1902. More than 2,000 people were killed and 50,000 left homeless by the destruction. More here

1943: Warsaw Ghetto Uprising begins: In Warsaw, Poland, Nazi forces attempting to clear out the city’s Jewish ghetto are met by gunfire from Jewish resistance fighters, and the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising begins.

Shortly after the German occupation of Poland began, the Nazis forced the city’s Jewish citizens into a “ghetto” surrounded by barbwire and armed SS guards. The Warsaw ghetto occupied an area of less than two square miles but soon held almost 500,000 Jews in deplorable conditions. Disease and starvation killed thousands every month, and beginning in July 1942, 6,000 Jews per day were transferred to the Treblinka concentration camp. Although the Nazis assured the remaining Jews that their relatives and friends were being sent to work camps, word soon reached the ghetto that deportation to the camp meant extermination. An underground resistance group was established in the ghetto–the Jewish Combat Organization (ZOB)–and limited arms were acquired at great cost. More here

1993: South Dakota governor George Mickelson and seven others are killed when a state-owned aircraft crashes in Iowa: On April 19, 1993 Mickelson was one of eight people aboard a state-owned airplane returning to South Dakota from a lobbying effort in Ohio. The plane, a Mitsubishi MU-2 turboprop, reported engine trouble while flying near Dubuque, Iowa and crashed into a farm silo about nine miles south of that city. All aboard the aircraft were killed. After the crash, Mickelson was succeeded as Governor by then-Lieutenant Governor Walter Dale Miller. Coincidentally, the crash took place on the same day as the end of the Branch Davidian siege near Waco, Texas, which overshadowed the crash in national news coverage. More here

1993: The 51-day siege of the Branch Davidian building outside Waco, Texas, USA, ends when a fire breaks out. Eighty-one people die: At Mount Carmel in Waco, Texas, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) launches a tear-gas assault on the Branch Davidian compound, ending a tense 51-day standoff between the federal government and an armed religious cult. By the end of the day, the compound was burned to the ground, and some 80 Branch Davidians, including 22 children, had perished in the inferno.

On February 28, 1993, agents of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) launched a raid against the Branch Davidian compound as part of an investigation into illegal possession of firearms and explosives by the Christian cult. As the agents attempted to penetrate the complex, gunfire erupted, beginning an extended gun battle that left four ATF agents dead and 15 wounded. Six Branch Davidians were fatally wounded, and several more were injured, including David Koresh, the cult’s founder and leader. After 45 minutes of shooting, the ATF agents withdrew, and a cease-fire was negotiated over the telephone. The operation, which involved more than 100 ATF agents, was one of the largest ever mounted by the bureau and resulted in the highest casualties of any ATF operation.

David Koresh was born Vernon Wayne Howell in Houston, Texas, in 1959. In 1981, he joined the Branch Davidians, a sect of the Seventh Day Adventist Church founded in 1934 by a Bulgarian immigrant named Victor Houteff. Koresh, who possessed an exhaustive knowledge of the Bible, rapidly rose in the hierarchy of the small religious community, eventually entering into a power struggle with the Davidians’ leader, George Roden. More here

1995: Oklahoma City bombing the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building explodes: The Oklahoma City bombing was a bomb attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995 at 9:02am. It was the most destructive act of terrorism on American soil until the September 11, 2001 attacks. The Oklahoma blast claimed 168 lives, including 19 children under the age of 6, and injured more than 680 people. The blast destroyed or damaged 324 buildings within a sixteen-block radius, destroyed or burned 86 cars, and shattered glass in 258 nearby buildings. The bomb was estimated to have caused at least $652 million worth of damage. Extensive rescue efforts were undertaken by local, state, federal, and worldwide agencies in the wake of the bombing, and substantial donations were received from across the country. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) activated eleven of its Urban Search and Rescue Task Forces, consisting of 665 rescue workers who assisted in rescue and recovery operations.

Within 90 minutes of the explosion, Timothy McVeigh was stopped by Oklahoma State Trooper Charlie Hanger for driving without a license plate and arrested for unlawfully carrying a weapon. Forensic evidence quickly linked McVeigh and Terry Nichols to the attack; Nichols was arrested, and within days both were charged. Michael and Lori Fortier were later identified as accomplices. McVeigh, an American militia movement sympathizer, had detonated an explosive-filled truck parked in front of the building. McVeigh’s co-conspirator, Terry Nichols, had assisted in the bomb preparation. Motivated by his hatred of the federal government and angered by what he perceived as its mishandling of the Waco Siege (1993) and the Ruby Ridge incident (1992), McVeigh timed his attack to coincide with the second anniversary of the deaths at Waco. More here and here

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