Archive for the ‘Today in History’ Category

Happy 75, Elvis

Today, January 8th, is Elivs Presley’s birthday.  He would have been 75 years old today.  Happy birthday, Elvis.


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Today in History


Five years ago today– on December 26, 2004– a 9.2-magnitude earthquake struck underwater off the coast of Aceh, on the island of Sumatra, which unleashed The Great South Asia Tsunami, a disaster that was felt around the world, killing 230,000 people, 170,00 of whom perished in Indonesia, the region’s hardest struck area.  After five years, the country’s in the South Asia region that were devastated by the tsunami are still struggling to recover.  Thousands of people are still homeless.


Above and Below: Memorial services are observed in Phang Nga, Thailand, to commemorate the fifth anniversary of The Great South Asia Tsunami of 2004.


Photo Credits: Reuters

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World AIDS Day

Today– December 1, 2009– is World AIDS Day 2009, a day dedicated to raising global awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection.  Founded in 1987, World AIDS Day is held each year on December 1 with a variety of memorials, events, medical and scientific forums, held around the world.

AIDS has killed more than 25 million people between 1981 and 2007, with an estimated 34 million people living with HIV as of 2007, making it one of the most destructive epidemics in recorded history.



To make an online contribution to support the efforts of World AIDS Day, click  here.

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Remembering Mumbai


It has been one year ago today– November 26, 2008– when more than ten coordinated attacks took place across Mumbai, the financial capital and largest city in India, resulting in the death of 173 people and wounding more than 300 other people.   The attacks occurred at some of Mumbai’s most recognized landmarks, including the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower and Oberoi Trident, two luxury hotels.

This month HBO Documentary Films airs a 64-minute documentary, called “Terror in Mumbai,” which is narrated by Fareed Zakaria, chronicling the events that unfolded on November 26, 2008 and continued until November 29, 2008, when the final terrorist was shot and killed by authorities.

To learn more about the HBO documentary and to view a schedule of upcoming showings, go to the official website by clicking here.



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Loma Prieta at 20



On October 17, 1989 at 5:04 PM, local time, the Loma Prieta Earthquake, a 6.9 mangnitude quake along the San Andreas fault, struck the San Francisco Bay Area.  The tremblor, which lasted about 10-15 seconds, caused the death of 63 people, injured more than 3,000 people, and resulted in property damage of more than $6 billion.

In a joint study performed in 2008 by Geological Survey, the Southern California Earthquake Center and the California State Geological Survey, it was reported that there is a 99-percent probability that one or more of the major faults in California will rupture and trigger a quake with a magnitude of at least 6.7 within 30 years.  An even more damaging quake with a magnitude of 7.5 or larger, is at least 46-percent likely to hit one of California’s active fault systems within the next three decades.

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Remembering 9/11


Eight years ago today, 19 Al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four USA commercial passenger jet airliners and intentionally crashed them into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan and the Pentagon, outside of Washington, D.C.  The fourth airliner crashed in a grassy field near Shanksville, PA, after passengers and flight crew members attempted to retake control of the plane, which the hijackers had directed toward Washington, D.C. after leaving Newark, NJ, bound for San Francisco, CA.

On that date, nearly 3,000 people from over 90 countries died as a result of the suicide attacks.


Do you remember where you were and what you were doing when you first learned of the attacks on 9/11/01?


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Katrina at Four


On August 29, 2005– four years ago today– the center of Hurricane Katrina passed east of New Orleaans, LA, slamming the St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes and creating a storm surge that caused more than 50 breaches in the drainage and navigational canals that help protect the City of New Orleans.  The result was the most destructive and costliest natural and engineering disaster in the history of the USA, with total losses of roughly $100 billion.

Within two days, over 80 percent of New Orleans was flooded, with some parts of the city under 15 feet of water.  

Although a mandatory evacuation order was in place by the time Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, over 60,000 people remained in New Orleans.  As the flood waters rose across the city, residents fled to the famous New Orleans Superdome, which had been designated as a “refuge of last resort,” capable of handling 800 people.  An estimated 30,000 people arrived at the Superdome in search of shelter, water, food and medical services.  Another 25,000 people arrived at the New Orleans Convention Center, which had not been designated or equipped to serve as a shelter.

The failed response of FEMA and other government agencies in providing timely rescue services and humanitarian aid to the residents of New Orleans became a national disgrace and unleashed a whirlwind of controversy around race and class in America.




After four years, much of the worst-hit areas in New Orleans, including the Ninth Ward, remain barren, abandoned or undeveloped.  I’m left wondering: What will become of New Orleans?

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50th State at 50


On August 21, 1959– fifty years ago today– President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a proclamation admitting Hawaii into the Union as the 50th state.  The President also issued an order for a new American flag featuring 50 stars arranged in staggered rows: five six-star rows and four five-star rows.  The new flag, which still flies today, became official July 4, 1960.

A variety of events during the year are being held across the State of Hawaii to mark the 50th anniversary of statehood. 

Regardless of one’s point of view around the  overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy, the imprisonment of Queen Liliuokalani, Hawaii’s last monarch, and the subsequent annexation to the U.S., the 50th anniversary of the Statehood of Hawaii is a landmark event, and an opportunity to look back at Hawaii’s amazing transformation over the past 50 years.


Above:  A now famous photograph showing a young newspaper seller on 8/21/59 with the headline announcing Hawaii statehood.


To learn more about the 50th anniversary of Hawaii’s statehood and to review a schedule of special events, go to the State of Hawaii’s official Anniversary website by clicking here.


Here’s a clip from YouTube featuring Hawaii Pono’i, the state (and former national) anthem.

Hawai’i Pono’i was written in 1874 by King David Kalakaua, with music by Camptain Henri Berger, the king’s royal bandmaster.  

And here are the lyrics to the beloved anthem, as well as the English translation.

Hawai’i pono’i
Nana i kou mo’i

Ka lani ali’i
Ke ali’i

Hawai’i pono’i
Nana i na ali’i
Na pua mui kou
Na poki’i

Hawai’i pono’i
Nana i na ali’i
Na pua muli kou
Na poki’i

Hawai’i pono’i
E ka lahui e
O kou hana nui
E ui e


Mauka lani e
Kamehameha e
Na kaua e pale
Me ka ihe


Hawai’i’s own true sons,
Be loyal to your king,
Your country’s liege and lord,
The chief.

Hawai’i’s own true sons,
Look to you chiefs,
The children after you,
The young.

Hawaii’s own true sons,
People of loyal heart,
The only duty lies,
List and abide.


Father above us all,
Kamehameha e,
Who guarded in the war,
With his spear.

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Woodstock at 40


On August 15, 1969– forty years ago today– the Woodstock Music and Art Fair got underway for three days of live music performed on a 600-acre dairy farm in Bethel, New York, a small rural town located about 40 miles southwest of the town of Woodstock, New York.

The event, which was expected to attract 50,000 people, swelled to over half a million concertgoers, who endured rain, mud, poor sanitation and limited food, to be part of a festival that is now regarded as one of the greatest moments in popular music history.  Woodstock was captured in a 1970 documentary movie, Woodstock, and an accompanying soundtrack album. 

Among the many artists that performed at Woodstock were Joan Baez, Santana, The Grateful Dead, Credence Clearwater Revival, Janis Joplin, The Who, Jefferson Airplane, Joe Cocker, Blood Sweat & Tears, and Crosby Stills, Nash & Young.

The film, Woodstock, was directed by Michael Wadleigh and edited by Thelma Schoonmaker and Martin Scorsese (who met in a summer film course at New York University in the mid-1960’s and began a lifelong collaboration on such classics as Raging Bull, Casino, Goodfellas, and The Departed).  The film won the 1970 Academy Award for Best Feature Documentary.

The Woodstock album was released in 1970 as a set of three LPs and became Billboard Magazine’s No. 1 Pop Album of the year.

The cover of the Woodstock album, which featured a photograph of a young couple who huddled together under a blanket for shelter from the rain and mud, became the symbol of Woodstock and is one of the most recognized album covers in the world. The couple in the photograph– Bobbi and Nick Ercoline– were girlfriend and boyfriend at the time and stayed just one night at Woodstock.  They were married two years later and have been together since then.  Today, they live in Pine Bush, NY, and have two children, ages 28 and 30.  Bobbi Ercoline is a school nurse and her husband, Nick, is a home inspector.

In an interview, Bobbi Ercoline said “I think the further we get from the original event the more meaningful it becomes, the more we realize how phenomenal it was: all those people coming together with no violence, just peace, love and sharing. Forty years later, it’s just remarkable that it could have occurred.”


Above: The iconic image by photographer Burt Uzzle, featuring the young couple Bobbi and Nick Ercoline, appeared on the cover of the Woodstock album.  Below: Forty years later, Bobbi and Nick Ercoline, are still together.


Above:  A short video that describes Bobbi and Nick Ercoline’s story as they look back at Woodstock, forty years later.

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Remembering Hiroshima


On August 6, 1945– 64 years ago today– the USA B-29 bomber, known as the Enola Gay, dropped the world’s first atom bomb, called “Little Boy,” over the city of Hiroshima, Japan.  As a result of the bomb:

*  140,000 people were killed or died within an year from the effects of the blast and radiation;
*  35,000 people  were injured;
*  62,000 buildings (nearly 70% of all buildings in the city) were destroyed.

Three days later, on August 9, 1945, the “Fat Man” atom bomb was dropped over Nagasaki, killing another 80,000 people.  On August 15, 1945, Japan announced its surrender to the Allied Powers, ending the Pacific War and therefore World War II.


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Man on the Moon


At 10:56 p.m. EDT, on July 20, 1969– forty years ago today– American astronaut Neil Armstrong stepped off the lunar landing module Eagle to become the first human to walk on the surface of the moon.  His remark, ” “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” is transmitted 240,000 miles to Earth to a worldwide audience estimated at one billion people.  This event marks one of the most stunning accomplishments in the history of mankind.



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Stonewall at 40


Forty years ago today– June 28, 1969– patrons at the Stonewall Inn, located at 53 Christopher Street in the heart of Greenwich Village in New York City, NY, clashed with police during an early morning raid on the bar.  Those events, together with the spontaneous and violents protests that occurred in the days that followed, have come to represent the defining moment which marked the start of the gay rights mvement in the USA and around the world. 



Above:  Photo taken on June 29, 1969 showing some of the protestors at Stonewall Inn, which appeared on the front page of the New York Daily News.  Below:  A recent photograph of Stonewall Inn.



To go to the website of the Stonewall Inn, click here.

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Today in History


On June 17, 1885, which is 124 years ago today, the Statue of Liberty arrived in New York Harbor on board the French frigate Isere as a gift to the USA from the people of France, in celebration of their centennial.   The statue arrived in 350 pieces, stored in 214 crates aboard the ship.  Sixteen months after its arrival in New York, the monument was officially unveiled on October 28, 1886 by President Grover Cleveland.

Designed by Frederic Auguste Bartholde, the magnificent copper-clad monument, affectionately called “Lady Liberty,”  is one of our most-beloved national treasures and one of the world’s most-recognized icons. 

Together with Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty is part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument, operated by the USA National Park Service.  In 2007, 3.2 million people visited the Statue of Liberty.  On July 4, 2009, visitor access to the Statue of Liberty’s crown will be granted for the first time following closure in the aftermath of 9/11, in a hugely symbolic move to fully reopen the monument.

To learn more about the Statue of Liberty and the reopening of the crown next month, visit the official website from the National Park Service by clicking here

If you want to make reservations and purchase advance tickets to the Statue of Liberty Monument and/or Ellis Island National Monument, visit the website of Statue Cruises, the official concessionaire of the National Park Service, by clicking here

If you want to get more details about upcoming access to the Crown of the Statue of Liberty, read the special bulletin from the National Park Service by clicking here.   According to plans announced by the NPS, roughly 200 persons per day (in groups of ten) will be admitted to the Crown, accompanied by a Park Ranger.




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Today in History


One hundred twenty-six years ago today, the iconic Brooklyn Bridge over New York’s East River was opened, connecting the great cities of New York and Brooklyn for the first time in history.  Thousands of residents of Brooklyn and Manhattan Island turned out to witness the dedication ceremony, which was presided over by President Chester A. Arthur and New York Governor Grover Cleveland.  Designed by John A. Roebling, the Brooklyn Bridge was the largest suspension bridge ever built to that date.

The Brooklyn Bridge, with its unprecedented length and two stately towers, was dubbed the “eighth wonder of the world.”  The connection it provided between the massive population centers of Brooklyn and Manhattan changed the course of New York City forever.  In 1898, the city of Brooklyn formally merged with New York City, Staten Island, and a few farm towns, forming Greater New York.




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Today in History


On this day in 1931, President Herbert Hoover officially dedicates New York City’s Empire State Building, pressing a button from the White House that turns on the building’s lights. Hoover’s gesture, of course, was symbolic; while the president remained in Washington, D.C., someone else flicked the switches in New York.

The idea for the Empire State Building is said to have been born of a competition between Walter Chrysler of the Chrysler Corporation and John Jakob Raskob of General Motors, to see who could erect the taller building. Chrysler had already begun work on the famous Chrysler Building, the gleaming 1,046-foot skyscraper in midtown Manhattan. Not to be bested, Raskob assembled a group of well-known investors, including former New York Governor Alfred E. Smith. The group chose the architecture firm Shreve, Lamb and Harmon Associates to design the building. The Art-Deco plans, said to have been based in large part on the look of a pencil, were also builder-friendly: The entire building went up in just over a year, under budget (at $40 million) and well ahead of schedule. During certain periods of building, the frame grew an astonishing four-and-a-half stories a week. 

At the time of its completion, the Empire State Building, at 102 stories and 1,250 feet high (1,454 feet to the top of the lightning rod), was the world’s tallest skyscraper. The Depression-era construction employed as many as 3,400 workers on any single day, most of whom received an excellent pay rate, especially given the economic conditions of the time. The new building imbued New York City with a deep sense of pride, desperately needed in the depths of the Great Depression, when many city residents were unemployed and prospects looked bleak. The grip of the Depression on New York’s economy was still evident a year later, however, when only 25 percent of the Empire State’s offices had been rented.

In 1972, the Empire State Building lost its title as world’s tallest building to New York’s World Trade Center.




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Today in History


At 5:13 a.m., Pacific, on April 18, 1906, an earthquake estimated at close to 8.0 on the Richter scale strikes San Francisco, California, killing hundreds of people as it topples numerous buildings. The quake was caused by a slip of the San Andreas Fault over a segment about 275 miles long, and shock waves could be felt from southern Oregon down to Los Angeles.

San Francisco’s brick buildings and wooden Victorian structures were especially devastated. Fires immediately broke out and–because broken water mains prevented firefighters from stopping them–firestorms soon developed citywide. At 7 a.m., U.S. Army troops from Fort Mason reported to the Hall of Justice, and San Francisco Mayor E.E. Schmitz called for the enforcement of a dusk-to-dawn curfew and authorized soldiers to shoot-to-kill anyone found looting. Meanwhile, in the face of significant aftershocks, firefighters and U.S. troops fought desperately to control the ongoing fire, often dynamiting whole city blocks to create firewalls. On April 20, 20,000 refugees trapped by the massive fire were evacuated from the foot of Van Ness Avenue onto the USS Chicago.

By April 23, most fires were extinguished, and authorities commenced the task of rebuilding the devastated metropolis. It was estimated that some 3,000 people died as a result of the Great San Francisco Earthquake and the devastating fires it inflicted upon the city. Almost 30,000 buildings were destroyed, including most of the city’s homes and nearly all the central business district.





To view a video about the Great Earthquake of 1906 at, click here.


Credits: and The National Archives

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Today in History


On January 5, 1933– 77 years ago today– constructed started on the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco’s beloved and world-recognized bridge that connects the City of San Francsisco to Marin County.  After four years of construction, the span officially opened on May 27, 1937, the longest bridge span in the world at the time.   Today, the iconic red-painted bridge is one of the symbols of San Francisco.


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