T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land" begins, "April is the cruellest month." And you know? Maybe he was right. Consider these terrible April events. Warning: They're really terrible.
1. April 4, 1968: Martin Luther King's assassination
Civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot while standing on the second-story balcony of a Memphis motel and pronounced dead an hour later. Conspiracies surround the tragedy, but James Earl Ray confessed and was sentenced to life in prison for the murder. Robert Kennedy announced King's death in a campaign speech that night, sympathizing with the King family and sharing his own feelings about his brother John F. Kennedy's assassination. Two months later, Robert Kennedy was also assassinated.
2. April 13, 1970: Apollo 13 oxygen tank explosion
Three days after launching, Apollo 13's oxygen tanks ruptured. The crew shut off the Command Module and used the Lunar Module as a lifeboat, a decision that ultimately saved their lives. The team never made it to the moon, but they miraculously survived, despite limited power, little water, and cold temperatures. So the mission wasn't another April disaster, but it was very close. Veryclose.
3. April 14, 1865: Abraham Lincoln's assassination
Five days after Confederate general Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union general Ulysses S. Grant, President Lincoln was assassinated—the first U.S. president ever to be so—while watching a play at Ford's Theater in Washington, D.C. Actor John Wilkes Booth and his co-conspirators also planned to kill the Secretary of State and Vice-President, but were unsuccessful.
4. April 15, 1912: The Titanic sinking
On its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York City, the "unsinkable" ocean liner hit an iceberg and sank within three hours. There are conflicting accounts of how many people died, but 1500 is a safe—and very tragic—estimate.
Not to make light of the disaster—but seriously, you're going to need some humor to get through this piece—years later, Celine Dion recorded the ear-wrenching "My Heart Will Go On" for James Cameron's 1997 film Titanic. Just sayin'.
5. April 15, 1955-Present: U.S. Tax Day
April 15 has been known as "Tax Day" since 1955, but the date can vary. If April 15 happens to be a Friday in a given year, the deadline's extended to Monday. On a weekend, it's extended to Tuesday. Either way, it's in April. (And if you're wondering, it used to be in March.)
Of course, Tax Day's not so bad if you get a refund. That's why I propose we alternatively call it "Buy a freelancer a drink day." Who's in?
6. April 17, 1961: Bay of Pigs invasion
John F. Kennedy remains one of the most beloved U.S. presidents, but the failed Bay of Pigs invasion early on in his administration was a total fiasco. Under Kennedy's leadership (and Eisenhower's original plan), the CIA gathered and trained a group of Cuban exiles and then sent them to invade the Bay of Pigs and overthrow Castro. This way, they figured, the U.S. wouldn't technically be involved. (Uh, what?) The exiles were met and outnumbered by the Cuban fighter planes, tanks, and militia and had no backup from the U.S. They surrendered a few days later, after 118 exiles were killed and over 1,000 were captured.
7. April 19, 1993: Mount Carmel Center raid
On February 28, 1993, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms tried to deliver a search warrant at Mount Carmel Center, the Waco, Texas headquarters of the Branch Davidians led by David Koresh. Four agents and six Branch Davidians were killed in the gun battle that ensued. The FBI launched a 51-day stand-off and eventually raided the compound on April 19. An attack that was supposedly only going to use tanks and tear gas led to guns, grenades, and a fire that killed 76 Branch Davidians, ages 1 to 76. However you view the event, it's a tragedy.
8. April 19, 1995: Oklahoma City bombing
Incensed by the Waco siege and his proclaimed hatred of the federal government, Gulf War veteran Timothy McVeigh detonated a bomb at the front of Oklahoma City's Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building two years after the Mount Carmel Center raid. The bombing remains the deadliest act of domestic terrorism in U.S. history, killing 168, including 19 children in a daycare center, and injuring more than 800.
9. April 20, 1999: Columbine High School massacre
Two Colorado high schoolers, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, opened fire at their school, making their way through the cafeteria, library, and hallways. The attack left 15 dead, 21 injured, and millions scarred.
10. April 20, 1889: Adolf Hitler's birthday
Heavy stuff, right? The Columbine Massacre was definitely planned to occur around the anniversary of the deadly events of years prior. But it's not certain if the perpetrators chose April 20 because that's the day of Adolf Hitler's birth. This piece isn't about getting political, but I think we can all agree that a world without Hitler would've been a happier one.
11. April 20, 2010: Deepwater Horizon explosion and BP oil spill
But wait, there's more April 20 terror! Sorry.
An explosion and fire on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico tragically killed 11 workers and injured 17. Two days later, the subsequent oil spill, the largest marine oil spill ever, made the news. BP reported a leak of about 42,000 gallons of oil a day and a 100-mile oil slick spanned the Louisiana coast. Eventually, oil and tar washed up on beaches. Wildlife died. The leak wasn't permanently sealed until September 19!
Ugh. Now that we're all thoroughly bummed out, let's try something else: What good things happened in April?