April 15: A Day of Heroes and Tragedies

April 15 is marked by some of history’s great tragedies – the death of Abraham Lincoln, the Titanic and the bombing at the 2013 Boston Marathon.  At the same time, it also defined by great heroes from Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, Hawaii’s Fr. Damien, the liberators of Bergen-Belsen, Jackie Robinson, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Tiananmen Square movement.




President Lincoln Dies

A day after being shot a Ford’s Theater, President Abraham Lincoln dies.  He had been taken to Peterson House across the street from Ford’s Thater on 10th Street where he remained in a coma until 7:22 a.m.  Secretary of War Stanton saluted and said, “Now he belongs to the ages.” His assassin, John Wilkes Booth, was captured and killed on April 26.


The Titanic Sinks

RMS Titanic sinks on its inaugural voyage in the North Atlantic at 2:20 a.m., two hours and forty minutes after hitting an iceberg. Only 710 of 2,227 passengers and crew on board survived.


Bombing at Boston Marathon

Two homemade bombs detonated 12 seconds and 210 yards apart near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three people and injuring several hundred others, including 16 who lost limbs.  The FBI quickly identified two Kyrgyz-American brothers as the bombers and by April 19th one was dead and the other in custody.  He has since been convicted and sentenced to death.





Founding of American School for the Deaf

Dr. Mason Cogswell, whose young daughter Alice was deaf, solicited Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet to tour Europe to recruit teachers for a school for the deaf  Gallaudet recruited Parisian Laurent Clerc to return to West Hartford, Connecticut where they founded the American School of the Deaf, which is the oldest school for the deaf in America.  Alice Cogswel was one of the first seven students enrolled.  Gallaudet served as its principal until principal until 1830.  His son would follow in his footsteps and founded Gallaudet University.


Death of Father Damien

Father Damien, a Catholic missionary in Hawaii, who won recognition for his work at a government-run leper colony on the island of Molokaʻi.   Father Damien not only taught the Catholic faith to the people of Hawaii but also cared for the patients himself and helped build houses, schools, hospitals and churches.  Father Damien eventually contracted leprosy and died from the disease but continued his work nonetheless.

He has been called a “martyr of charity” and is the tenth person in what is now the United States to be recognized as a saint by the Catholic Church.   He is considered the spiritual patron for leprosy and outcasts and the patron saint for the Diocese of Honolulu and of Hawaii.



Liberation of Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp

The British 11th Armoured Division liberated the camp and discovered approximately 60,000 prisoners inside, most of them half-starved and seriously ill and another 13,000 corpses (which included Anne Frank).


Jackie Robinson Breaks Baseball’s Color Barrier

Jackie Robinson broke American sports’ color barrier when he played on this day for the Brooklyn Dodgers.  Robinson would go on to be Rookie of the year, a six-time All-Star, and National League MVP and would be enshrined in Baseball’s Hall of Fame.


Founding of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee

The Southern Christan Leadership Council provided funding for a conference of 126 students from 58 sit-in centers in 12 states plus delegates from 19 northern colleges, the Congress for Racial Equality, the Fellowship of Reconciliation,  the National Student Association and Students for a Democratic Society (SDS).  Out of this conference, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and its leaders became known as the shock troops of the revolution for SNCC’s role on the front lines of the key civil rights battles at that time.  SNCC included director Ella Baker and early Chairmen Marion Barry (future Mayor of Washington, D.C.) and John Lewis (future Congressman).


Death of Hu Yaobang Leads to Tiananmen Square protests

Hu Yaobang, an advocate for political and economic reform within China (including rehabilitating victims of the Cultural Revolution) died on this day.  His death brought 50,000 students to Tiananmen Square





City of San Francisco Incorporated

creation of san francisco

At the height of the Gold Rush, the California legislature incorporated the city of San Francisco – California’s largest city at that time.  John Geary, who had been appointed postmaster of the city by President Polk, was elected as the city’s first mayor.  He was later appointed Governor of the Kansas territory and was elected Governor of Pennsylvania.


Closing Ceremony of First Olympics


The Games of the I Olympiad came to a close in Athens. The 1896 Olympics were regarded as a great success. The Games had the largest international participation of any sporting event to that date.  The United States won the most gold medals, but host Greece won the most overall medals.



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