The Mind of James Donahue

April 20

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Wedding Anniversary On A Dark April Date


By James Donahue

April 22, 2005


Always nonconformists, my wife and I nearly eloped in the midst of my college studies, but got talked into a modest formal wedding at the last moment so our parents could participate.


The date of the wedding was strangely selected by an off-campus housekeeper, who chose to post a coo-coo clock with quarterly-hour Westminster chimes on the wall of her living room, directly under the rented room where I slept. After weeks of battling the chimes and getting hollow-eyed from lack of rest, we moved our wedding plans from June to April and asked a local preacher to tie the knot. Thus I got my girl and fled the clock in mid-term.


To accommodate parents having to drive some distance, and to give ourselves a two-day honeymoon before I had to be back in class, we chose a Friday afternoon in April. The date was April 20.


The strangeness of this date has never failed to baffle me. That the date has been linked to calamity in recent years has sometimes been the subject of sick family humor.


This is the date, in 1999, for example, when Littleton, Colorado students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold walked into Columbine High School and gunned down 12 of their classmates and a teacher before turning their guns on themselves. It was the worst high school killing since the 1927 dynamiting of the Bath School, near Lansing, Michigan, and the deaths of 45 people, mostly children, by a disgruntled landowner.


April 20 was a day of shock and extreme awe for Americans in 1995 because it was the day following the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building and deaths of 168 people in downtown Oklahoma City. Timothy McVeigh and a Michigan army buddy, Terry Nichols, were arrested and charged in the bombing.


There is an odd link between our family and this event. It seems that Terry Nichols and his brother, James, operated a family farm a few miles down the road from where we lived at the time. In a rural area like that, everybody knew everybody. As an area news reporter, I recall the day when the brothers appeared in Sanilac County Circuit Court to a tax protest lawsuit against state and local governments.


There was speculation that the Oklahoma City bombing was a protest against the decision by federal agents to raid and burn the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas, and kill 74 men, women and children. This happened on April 19, 1993. The federal agents were attempting to arrest Davidian leader David Koresh on trumped up charges of illegal firearm possession and sexually assaulting children. This was never proven.


I was reminded of all of these horrors this week by one of the visitors to the forum on my website. Noting that the Roman Catholic Church named Pope Benedict XVI on April 19, the dates of these American calamities, he suggested that no good thing will come from this church leader.


He also noted that Pope Benedict, a German and former brown shirt, was chosen on the eve of Adoph Hitler’s birthday, April 20.


Some research revealed another interesting fact about Hitler. He committed suicide in a Berlin bunker, as the Russians were closing in, on his birthday. He died April 20, 1945.


One other note of interest: The first shot of the American Revolution was fired on April 19, 1775. It was said to have been “the shot heard around the world.”

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