Soothsayer: Beware the ides of
March. April ~~ Julius Caesar, William Shakespeare
Maybe that could have been what a soothsayer speaking to the newborn United States told our nation (yes, I know that the actual Ides is the 15th). April has seen a disproportionate amount of tragedy in America’s history. From murder/suicides to bombings and mass shootings, some of our most tragic events have occurred in April. Perhaps it’s cabin fever as winter and spring wrestle, still, over who gets to control the month’s weather and we humans are just tired of being cooped up. Heck, maybe it’s in how the stars align or the gods are overly malign in April. Come up with your own theory – it’s as valid as anyone else’s.
We’ll start with the first event that could be considered to fit the definition of a “campus attack,” according to the government agencies that wrote up a report on those in April (go figure) of 2010. Though several attacks in April occurred in other locales, campuses of “IHE”s – institutes of higher education – seem to have more than their share of tragedy. Abortion clinics, too, have seen violent attacks during April.
Now, I’m not saying that people who commit acts of violence plan to do so during the month of April, but it is an interesting phenomenon that several of our worst acts of violence have occurred then. Let’s begin slowly, starting with the first incident that the government feels fits the description:
Boston: April 29, 1909 – A student was shot on campus by her former boyfriend who then turned the gun on himself. The victim had refused marriage proposals from the man, who came to the campus a few times to plead his case before deciding that a murder/suicide was an appropriate response to his rejection.
Peru, Nebraska: April 25, 1950 – A psychology professor, Dr. B.K. Baker, shot the president of Peru State Teachers College, Dr. William Nicholas, and a lecturer, Dr. Paul Maxwell, before killing himself. He was to be fired from the college’s staff after 24 years there. He left a note blaming Dr. Nicholas: “Willie tried to fire the wrong person.”
Whitharral, Texas: April 7, 1977 – A student at the local high school shot his principal, Malcolm Tripp, twice, killing him. The boy, Ricardo Lopez, then went to a nearby store, handed his .38-caliber to the clerk and asked him to call the police.
Austin, Texas April 25, 2007 – A bomb at a women’s health clinic was found and disarmed before it could be detonated. The bomb contained 2,000 nails attached to a propane tank. It was found in the parking lot and disarmed before it could wreak havoc. It could have been a horrific attack if someone hadn’t been sharp-eyed and called the police.
Grand Chute, Wisconsin April 1, 2012 – A Planned Parenthood clinic was targeted with a bomb left on a windowsill. Thankfully, nobody was in the building when the bomb went off, possibly ahead of schedule. The clinic re-opened a few days later.
Now we come to the big news and the big events that really make one wonder. Some say it’s because April is tax day but that can only have influenced one (possibly two but we don’t know about the Boston event). But April 19 is Patriot Day, so it’s possible that may be linked to a few of these events. But, truthfully, we may never know exactly in any, save one, of these incidents.
Waco, Texas April 19, 1993 – A seminal date in the timeline of many on the right, the siege of the Branch Davidian compound outside of town drew to a terrible conclusion. It began on February 28, with a visit to the compound by the ATF who were exercising an arrest warrant for the cult’s leader, David Koresh. Shots were fired – both sides claiming that the other started it, typically – and, in the end, the ATF was outgunned as the Davidians brought out a .50 caliber cannon. Four ATF agents were killed. The FBI then stepped in. On April 19, they began launching tear gas from tanks with which they breached the outer walls of the compound. From there, chaos ensued as fires broke out, lit by the Davidians, according to “bug” recordings and arson investigators. More than 70 people died. The Waco incident was, and still is, a rallying point for militia and other right-wing types.
Oklahoma City, April 19, 1995 – Two years after Waco, Timothy McVeigh decided to exact retribution for that incident. He built a 5,000-pound bomb, placed it in a truck and parked it outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. It went off at 9:02 AM, killing 168 people, 19 of them were children in the on-site daycare center for employees. McVeigh and his friend, Terry Nichols, planned the bombing for 8 months, purchasing ammonium nitrate fertilizer and other parts for the bomb in September, 1993. Through sheer luck, McVeigh was stopped and arrested on other charges. When purchase receipts and a rental agreement for the truck were discovered in his car, he was arrested for the bombing. He was executed on June 11, 2001. m
Columbine, Colorado April 20, 1999 – Two students, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, entered the school (which had armed security guards, BTW) and proceeded to indiscriminately shoot those inside. They killed 12 students and a teacher, and wounded 21 more students in the span of 20 minutes. Two propane bombs were later found in the cafeteria – if they had been detonated, the victim count would have been much higher. The boys had built pipe bombs to use and also carried knives. But the guns were the only weapons they managed to use, thankfully. It was unclear why they chose April 20 which is (incidentally, most likely) Hitler’s birthday.
Blacksburg, Virginia April 17, 2007 – Armed with a .22 caliber and a 9mm semiautomatic handgun, Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people, most of them students. The massacre began at 7:15 AM just as the campus was waking up. He first shot a young woman and a young student adviser at a dormitory. He then left the campus to mail a package of writings and videos to NBC news, returning to the campus about 2 hours after the first shootings, making his way to the engineering and science building where he killed 30 students and faculty members. Finally, he turned one of the guns on himself. In his backpack were chains, locks, hammers, two magazines and almost 400 rounds of ammo along with the guns.
Which brings us to today and, oddly enough, full circle to Boston. As of this writing there are 3 fatalities (one of which was an 8-year-old boy) and at least 140 people wounded, many of whom have had to have leg amputations. We do not know who placed those bombs, despite conjecture and false accusations. Let’s hope that whoever perpetrated this act of April violence is caught soon.
T. Steelman is a life-long Liberal. She has been writing online about politics since 2007. She lives in Western Washington with her husband, daughter, 2 cats and a small herd of alpacas. How can anybody be enlightened? Truth is, after all, so poorly lit…