The best day of the year in Massachusetts starts with a reenactment of the Revolutionary War battle at 5:30 in the morning, followed by the start of the Boston Marathon at 8:50 and a Boston Red Sox home game at 11:00.
Every third Monday of April is known as Patriot’s Day, a civic holiday celebrated in Massachusetts, Maine, and Wisconsin. The event marks the Battles of Lexington and Concord, where the ‘shot heard round the world’ that stated the American Revolution was fired, in what would ultimately lead to the United States of America becoming an independent country.
But as we watched the bombing of last year’s Boston Marathon unfold, it became painfully clear that the holiday can also be hijacked by extremists who seek to use terrorism as a means of instituting change in the republic.
If you look through moments in American history, massive acts of violence have frequently popped up either on, or around the time Patriot’s Day is celebrated.
Here are some other prime examples:
The 51 day standoff between federal government agencies and a religious sect led by leader David Koresh culminated in an FBI assault and tear gas attack that ended with the building burning down, killing 76 men, women, and children inside was carried out on April 19, 1993. The group was suspected of violating federal firearms laws.
Exactly two years later, the bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building that was orchestrated by Gulf War veteran Timothy McVeigh and co-conspirator Terry Nichols took place on April 19, 1995. The bombing killed a total of 168 people, and injured over 800, making it the most deadly domestic terrorist attack in U.S. history. McVeigh visited the Waco site during the standoff mentioned above, and had planned the attack to coincide with the anniversary of the Waco siege and the Battles of Lexington and Concord.
Additionally, the Covenant of the Church, the Sword, and the Arm of the Lord, a white supremacist and anti-government group, was raided on April 19, 1985 and charged with illegal weapons possession, though they were later dropped. Richard Wayne Snell, the leader of the group, was executed the very day the Oklahoma City Bombing attack occurred on separate charges of killing a police officer and shopkeeper. He previously had plans to attack the same federal building that Timothy McVeigh bombed.
Although it is characterized as a mass shooting, the Columbine shooting occurred in Littleton, Colorado on April 20, 1999. Two senior students, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, murdered twelve students at Columbine High School, in addition to injuring 24 more. They then committed suicide.
The Virginia Tech massacre took place on April 16, 2007. Seung-Hui Cho, a senior at the school, shot and killed 32 people and wounded seventeen others during two attacks that occurred about two hours apart from each other. The massacre stands as the deadliest shooting by a single gunman in U.S. history, and one of the deadliest by a single gunman worldwide. The attack took place on Patriot’s Day.
Although it represents a loss of life whose cause is still wholly unknown, a massive ammonium nitrate explosion occurred at the West Fertilizer Company storage and distribution facility just north of Waco, Texas. In total, fifteen people were killed, more than 160 were injured, and over 150 buildings were severely damage or destroyed. The explosion took place only two days after the Boston Marathon bombing, on April 17, 2013.
While this is not a conspiracy theory piece of literature, the fact that these monumental moments in contemporary American history are so concentrated into one sliver of the full calendar is somewhat unsettling.
Yet as the runners, baseball players and historical reenactors suit up in Boston today, they will be doing so fearlessly and courageously. Last year’s tragedy has not brought the city down as the perpetrators would have liked. Rather, the events have only made America stronger in the name of our fallen martyrs.
To quote the last stanza of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s famous Concord Hymn that he wrote in honor of the battles on April 19, 1775 that sparked the American Revolution, and thus American patriotism: “Spirit, that made those heroes dare/ To die, and leave their children free/ Bid Time and Nature gently spare/ The shaft we raise to them and thee.”
All photos from Getty Images
Daniel Rivero is a producer/reporter for Fusion who focuses on police and justice issues. He also skateboards, does a bunch of arts related things on his off time, and likes Cuban coffee.