January 15th in history:
Twenty-one people were killed and more than 100 others were injured by a flash flood in Boston on January 15th, 1919 — a flood of molasses. A 50-foot-tall holding tank owned by the Purity Distilling Company burst open, and more than two million gallons of molasses poured out in a wave that was said to be as high as 15 feet. The tank had sprung leaks before that day, and experts think the “Great Molasses Flood” might have been caused by unusually warm winter weather.
Another East Coast disaster 90 years later had a much happier ending. January 15th, 2009, was the date of the “Miracle on the Hudson,” when U.S. Airways pilot Chesley Sullenberger landed Flight 1549 from New York’s La Guardia Airport onto the Hudson River after birds flew into the engines two minutes into the flight. All of the crew members and the 150 passengers survived the water landing.
A Mississippi plane crash in 1977 killed three members of the band Lynyrd Skynyrd, including the lead singer of “Free Bird,” Ronnie Van Zant — born on this date in 1948. And it’s the birthday of actor Lloyd Bridges (1913), who had a career revival after appearing in the disaster-film spoof “Airplane!”
October 25 in history:
The United Nations traded in old China for new on October 25th, 1971…when Taiwan (Nationalist China) was expelled and Communist China was admitted as a member. The U.S. ambassador to the U.N., George Bush, walked out in protest. Bush later served as an unofficial ambassador to China before being elected vice-president and president of the U.S.
Another dramatic moment at the U.N. occurred on this date in 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The U.S. ambassador in ’62, Adlai Stevenson, presented evidence to the Security Council that the Soviets had missiles in Cuba. When the Soviet ambassador did not respond to the charge right away, Stevenson said he was prepared to wait for an answer “until hell freezes over.”
A “primrose path to Hell” is how Archbishop Francis Beckman of Dubuque described swing music in a speech to the National Council of Catholic Women on October 25th, 1938. Beckman made that speech on his 63rd birthday.
Wonder what the archbishop would have thought of rock and roll music. It’s the birthday of singer Katy Perry (born 1984), who became a star with the song “I Kissed a Girl.” Perry switched to pop music after releasing a Christian rock album under her real name, Katy Hudson. She changed her last name to avoid confusion with actress Kate Hudson.
October 25th, 1977, was the day of Lynyrd Skynyrd singer Ronnie Van Zant’s funeral. Van Zant was one of six people killed in the crash of the band’s plane in Mississippi. The new Lynyrd Skynyrd album “Street Survivors” was in stores at the time, and coincidentally showed band members surrounded by flames. Released that same week: Meat Loaf’s album “Bat Out of Hell,” which included not only the title track, but also “Heaven Can Wait” and “Paradise by the Dashboard Light.”