November 22, 1963: John F. Kennedy is assassinated.
Sixty-two years after the assassination of William McKinley, President John F. Kennedy became, at the age of forty-six, the fourth president to be assassinated in American history. He had arrived in Dallas the same day he was assassinated, on tour campaigning for the 1964 election. Prior to his arrival, he had been warned against visiting the city by many, including Adlai Stevenson, who had himself faced jeers and threats of violence when he visited the city a month earlier. Kennedy decided to go anyway; he and Jacqueline arrived in Dallas at around noon and stepped into a presidential limousine headed for the Dallas Trade Mart, where Kennedy would have spoken at a luncheon.
Kennedy was travelling in a motorcade that took him along a ten-mile route through Dallas, allowing him to greet the crowds of excited people who packed the streets. The Kennedys were joined in their limousine by the governor of Texas and the governor’s wife, who reportedly spoke the last words Kennedy heard before being shot:
Mr. President, you can’t say Dallas doesn’t love you.
As the limousine turned and entered Dealey Plaza (passing in front of the Texas School Book Depository, a bullet struck the president, and then, as a Secret Service agent rushed to his aid, another hit him, this time straight in the head. Jacqueline Kennedy climbed onto the back of the limousine and screamed “I have his brains in my hand!” The limo then sped off to the hospital, but little more could be done. John F. Kennedy was declared dead half an hour later. Fifteen minutes later, Lee Harvey Oswald shot a Dallas police officer on the side of a road. He was soon found in a theater, where he was arrested. Controversy still surrounds the assassination, especially regarding Oswald, his guilt, and his involvement in a possible conspiracy orchestrated by several different parties (the KGB, the CIA, the mafia, even then-Vice President Johnson). The Warren Commission, which was established a week after Kennedy’s assassination, found nothing of note, but the commission’s findings did nothing to quell controversy; in fact, it probably exacerbated it.
Five years ago today, Deathly Hallows was released in bookstores all over the world.
Five years ago today, we held in our hands the last and final installement in the epic tale of Harry Potter.
Five years ago today, kids and adults alike began their final first reading of a Harry Potter book.
Five years ago today, we lost Charity Burbage, Mad-Eye Moody, Hedwig, Rufus Scrimgeour, Ted Tonks, Dobby, Fred Weasley, Remus Lupin, Tonks (no first name out of utter respect), Colin Creevey and countless others, named and unnamed, who died fighting for the Wizarding World.
Five years ago today we laughed. We cried. We gawked in awe at the twists and turns that only Jo Rowling herself could pull off.
But most importantly, five years ago today we thought this series was over. But in this last half decade, we’ve grown stronger than ever. In the last five years, we’ve even picked up thousands of new fans along the way.
In this last decade, we have learned something crucial, that she herself put best:
The stories we love do live on in us forever, so whether you come back by page or by screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.
These books talk us life lessons that we never could have dreamed of. Dumbledore taught us that the battle of good versus evil is not always cut and dry, and that sometimes we must pick between what is right and what is easy.
We learned that there are bad people in this world, but as long as there are people willing to fight for what is right, and to fight for love, the world can still be a good place.
This is an especially important lesson in light of the Colorado shooting early this morning, July 20. Sometimes our faith in humanity is shaken. Sometimes, in fiction and in real life, it comes in the form of masked men unleashing terror on unsuspecting, innocent bystandards. But if ever there were a time to draw parallels to Harry Potter, this might be it. We have to remember that there is light in this world, as long as we are willing to seek it.
So thank you, Jo. Thank you for making these books relevant in our lives in ways we never could have imagined. Thank you for giving us a childhood that we will carry with us for the rest of our lives.
Thanks for all of it, Jo.
July 17, 1955: Disneyland opens.
On the dedication day of “the Happiest Place on Earth”, nearly 30,000 people showed up - some of them guests, and some of them owners of counterfeit tickets. The event was televised nationally, anchored by three men, including one Ronald Reagan. Alas, a series of problems marred the happiness of the day (which came to be known by Disney execs as “Black Sunday”) - as the temperature rose, soda fountains ran dry, food ran out, traffic backed up, and a gas leak forced four lands to close. The true opening day came on July 18, when the public was invited to experience the park.
Fifty-three-year-old Walt Disney read this statement to dedicate his new park:
To all who come to this happy place: Welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here, age relives fond memories of the past, and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future. Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams, and the hard facts that have created America, with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world.
July 17, 1918: Tsar Nicholas II and his family are executed.
Since May of 1918, the Tsar, his wife, and their five children - Alexei, Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia - were captives of the Bolsheviks, imprisoned in a merchant’s house in Yekaterinburg. As the White Army neared the city, however, the communists feared that it (and with it, the royal family) would fall into the enemy’s hands. On July 16, the family’s Bolshevik guards were alerted of approaching Czech forces and ordered by telegram to wipe out the Romanovs in one fell swoop.
At around midnight, the the Tsar and his family were awakened and taken to the cellar room under the pretext that they would soon be transported to a safer location. Soon after, a group of executioners entered the room, led by Yakov Yurovsky; before committing the act, they had all downed shots of vodka, perhaps resulting in the messy and bloody execution that followed. Nicholas was shot and may have died instantly, but Alexey and the girls had not even this luxury. Wounded and in shock but still alive, the Romanov children were finished off by the guards’ bayonets.
In 2000, the family and their physician, cook, footman, and maid, were all canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church as ‘passion bearers’.
July 4, 1776: The Continental Congress adopts the Declaration of Independence.
The actual declaration came two days earlier, on July 2, but the document which officially announced and provided reasoning for independence was ratified on July 4, 1776. The first signer was John Hancock, and between July 4 and August 2, fifty-five others added their names.
Other Fourth of Julys in American history:
July 4, 1803: The Louisiana Purchase Treaty is announced. The acquisition of the Louisiana Territory doubled the size of the United States at a price of under three cents an acre.
July 4, 1826: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson die. Both were signers of the Declaration of Independence, and they died within hours of each other on the fiftieth anniversary of the ratification of the document. Supposedly, Adams’ last words were “Thomas Jefferson survives”,though Jefferson died before him.
July 4, 1863: The Siege of Vicksburg ends. The fall of this Confederate fortress, coupled with the end of the Battle of Gettysburg, marked a turning point of the American Civil War. In a few days, the Union would control the Mississippi River, and the Confederacy would be split in two.
July 4, 1863: Confederate forces retreat from Gettysburg. The bloodiest battle of the Civil War was also the “high tide” of the Confederacy’s war effort, and one of the only major battles fought on Union soil.
July 4, 1886: The Statue of Liberty is formally presented to the American ambassador in Paris. Its original name was Liberty Enlightening the World (La Liberté éclairant le monde). It was not completed in time for the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, though its completed arm and torch were displayed there.
July 4, 1894: The Republic of Hawaii is established. This short-lived republic’s first president was Sanford B. Dole, cousin of the founder of the food company. On July 4, 1898, Hawaii was annexed by the United States.
July 4, 1946: The Philippines achieves independence from the United States.
July 2, 1937: Amelia Earhart disappears en route to Howland Island.
In 1932, this Kansas native became the first woman to fly solo nonstop across the Atlantic, just five years after Charles Lindbergh accomplished the same feat. In 1937, Earhart and flight navigator Fred Noonan set out to circumnavigate the globe; if successful, their trip would have them travel a total of 29,000 miles.
The final stretch of the journey - a few thousand miles over the Pacific Ocean - would end at Howland Island. On the morning of July 2, Earhart radioed some of her last transmissions to the USCGC Itasca, which apparently received her transmissions but was unable to send any back. Shortly after receiving Earhart’s last transmission, official searches for the disappeared aviator and her navigator began. No trace of the aircraft or the occupants were ever found, and on January 5, 1939, Earhart was declared legally dead.
What happened to Amelia Earhart? The most widely-accepted theory is that her plane simply crashed into the ocean and sank, and that its wreck is simply sitting somewhere in the Pacific, waiting to be found. Another theory is that she and Noonan were left stranded on a deserted island, before perishing. And of course, others hold more far-fetched theories - shot down by the Japanese for spying, eloped with Noonan, crashed on the island from LOST (or is that just me?), abducted by aliens… The search and speculation still continue today.
June 26, 1997: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is published.
Fifteen years ago, the book series that defined a generation began. So have some quotes!
There will be books written about Harry. Every child in the world will know his name. (How right you were, Professor McGonagall.)
Sunshine daisies, butter mellow, turn this stupid fat rat yellow.
Always the innocent are the first victims, so it has been for ages past, so it is now.
‘The truth.’ Dumbledore sighed. ‘It is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution.’
Once again, you show all the sensitivity of a blunt axe.
There are some things you can’t share without ending up liking each other, and knocking out a twelve-foot mountain troll is one of them.It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.
It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.
Love as powerful as your mother’s for you leaves it’s own mark. To have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever.
To the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.He couldn’t know that at this very moment, people meeting in secret all over the country were holding up their glasses and saying in hushed voices: ‘To Harry Potter – the boy who lived!’
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (1997)
June 18, 1815: Napoleon is defeated at the Battle of Waterloo.
We all know how it ends - with Napoleon’s defeat, abdication, and exile; however, the entire battle, regarded as one of the most decisive in history, took place within the timespan of one day. It was fought between Napoleon’s Armée du Nord and the combined forces of the Seventh Coalition under the Duke of Wellington and the Prussian field marshal Gebhard von Blücher (then seventy-two years old). The coalition army, composed of thousands of British, Dutch, Belgian, and German troops (plus Blücher’s Prussians), was described by its British leader as “very weak and ill-equipped”. Still, they outnumbered the French army by a substantial amount.
The battle began in the morning, and by late afternoon, the French forces were retreating, with 25,000 casualties to the coalition’s 19,000. The Duke of Wellington called the engagement “the nearest run thing you ever saw in your life”, but however unsure he was of the outcome before the battle was over, its effects were immediate. Napoleon Bonaparte abdicated for the second and final time six days after the battle, and the Napoleonic Wars, which had rocked Europe for over a decade, were over.
June 14, 1940: Auschwitz Opens
On this day in 1940, the Nazis opened the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland.
Nazi records show that tens of thousands of Jews from German-occupied territories were sent to Auschwitz to be executed each month.
Two Auschwitz prisoners, Rudolph Vrba and Alfred Wetzler, were determined to expose the horrors of the Nazi genocide and stop the killing factories forever. To do that, they became the first to escape from the heavily-guarded camp. Read about their escape path and watch Secrets of the Dead’s “Escape from Auschwitz.”
Above Image: This map, drawn from Rudolf Vrba’s own account of his escape, traces the two friends’ journey, from Auschwitz to the safety of Slovakia, where they finally revealed the secret purpose of Auschwitz.
Happy birthday Anne Frank (12 June 1929 - March 1945)