John’s Believe It Or Not … May 3rd

John Fioravanti Stands at the front of his classroom in 2006

It’s Hump Day Again! Did you know…

* 1915 Lt.-Col. John McCrae composes “In Flanders Fields”. (“In Flanders Fields” is a war poem in the form of a rondeau, written during the First World War by Canadian physician Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae. He was inspired to write it on May 3, 1915, after presiding over the funeral of a friend and fellow soldier Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, who died in the Second Battle of Ypres. According to legend, fellow soldiers retrieved the poem after McCrae, initially dissatisfied with his work, discarded it. “In Flanders Fields” was first published on December 8 of that year in the London-based magazine Punch. It is one of the most popular and most quoted poems from the war. As a result of its immediate popularity, parts of the poem were used in propaganda efforts and appeals to recruit soldiers and raise money selling war bonds. Its references to the red poppies that grew over the graves of fallen soldiers resulted in the remembrance poppy becoming one of the world’s most recognized memorial symbols for soldiers who have died in conflict. The poem and poppy are prominent Remembrance Day symbols throughout the Commonwealth of Nations, particularly in Canada, where “In Flanders Fields” is one of the nation’s best-known literary works. The poem also has wide exposure in the United States, where it is associated with Memorial Day.)

McCrae and the poem

* 1980 MADD founder’s daughter killed by drunk driver. (On this day in 1980, 13-year-old Cari Lightner of Fair Oaks, California, is walking along a quiet road on her way to a church carnival when a car swerves out of control, striking and killing her. Cari’s tragic death compelled her mother, Candy Lightner, to found the organization Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), which would grow into one of the country’s most influential non-profit organizations. When police arrested Clarence Busch, the driver who hit Cari, they found that he had a record of arrests for intoxication, and had in fact been arrested on another hit-and-run drunk-driving charge less than a week earlier. Candy Lightner learned from a policeman that drunk driving was rarely prosecuted harshly and that Busch was unlikely to spend significant time behind bars. Furious, Lightner decided to take action against what she later called “the only socially accepted form of homicide.” MADD was the result. (Charged with vehicular homicide, Busch did eventually serve 21 months in jail.) In 1980–the year Cari Lightner died–some 27,000 alcohol-related traffic fatalities occurred in the United States, including 2,500 in California alone. After founding MADD, Lightner began lobbying California’s governor, Jerry Brown, to set up a state task force to investigate drunk driving. Brown eventually agreed, making her the task force’s first member. In 1981, California passed a law imposing minimum fines of $375 for drunk drivers and mandatory imprisonment of up to four years for repeat offenders. President Ronald Reagan soon asked Lightner to serve on the National Commission on Drunk Driving, which recommended raising the minimum drinking age to 21 and revoking the licenses of those arrested for drunk driving. In July 1984, she stood next to Reagan as he signed a law reducing federal highway grants to any state that failed to raise its drinking age to 21 (a change that was estimated to save around 800 traffic deaths annually); by the following year, all 50 states had tightened their drunk-driving laws.)

Candy Lightner holds a picture of her daughter

* 2007 British girl goes missing in Portugal. (On this day in 2007, less than two weeks before her fourth birthday, Madeleine McCann of Rothley, England, vanishes during a family vacation at a resort in southern Portugal. McCann’s disappearance prompted an international search; however, she has never been found. McCann’s disappearance generated widespread media coverage in Europe and beyond. English soccer star David Beckham made a televised plea for her safe return, and “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling reportedly donated millions to help find the little girl. Gerry and Kate McCann, observant Catholics, also had an audience in Rome with Pope Benedict, who blessed a photo of Madeleine. On September 7, 2007, Portuguese officials named Gerry and Kate McCann, both of whom are physicians, as suspects in their daughter’s disappearance. Soon after, authorities leaked word that Madeleine’s DNA had been discovered in the trunk of the car her parents rented in Portugal almost a month after she vanished. There was speculation that the McCanns, in order to enjoy an evening out, had given their children sedatives and that Madeleine had a fatal reaction to the dosage she received. Afterward, the McCanns faked her abduction and hid her body for weeks before transferring it to the trunk of their rental car. Gerry and Kate McCann labeled this theory ridiculous, particularly given the fact that they were under intense media scrutiny and constantly followed by reporters. The local Portuguese police chief later admitted that the DNA tests were inconclusive. In July 2008, Gerry and Kate McCann were formally cleared by Portuguese officials of any involvement in their daughter’s disappearance. A third person who had been considered the case’s only other formal suspect, a British man living in Portugal, was cleared as well. Additionally, Portugal’s attorney general said there was insufficient evidence for police to continue their investigation.)

The McCanns holding a picture of their missing daughter

* 1962 Trains collide near Tokyo. (Two commuter trains and a freight train collide near Tokyo, Japan, killing more than 160 people and injuring twice that number on this day in 1962. It was Constitution Day in Japan when a commuter train pulled out of Mikawashima station at 9:30 p.m. taking passengers out of Tokyo. Three miles north of the city, a freight train went through a red signal, causing it to jump the track and collide with the commuter train. Most of the passengers survived this first collision. The survivors then scrambled out of the disabled train and down a 30-foot embankment adjacent to the rails. Minutes later, a second commuter train on the same line, with nine cars, came down the tracks unaware of the crash ahead and plowed into the back of the first commuter train. The collision caused the boiler of the steam locomotive on the freight train to explode; the resulting steam scalded those people still stuck on the train. To make matters worse, the first commuter train was pushed over and down the embankment right on top of the passengers who had escaped from it minutes earlier. More than 400 people were either killed or required hospitalization. The subsequent investigation into the accident resulted in the indictment of nine of the freight train’s crew members for criminal negligence.)

Mikawashima train crash

* 1952 Fletcher lands on the North Pole. (A ski-modified U.S. Air Force C-47 piloted by Lieutenant Colonel Joseph O. Fletcher of Oklahoma and Lieutenant Colonel William P. Benedict of California becomes the first aircraft to land on the North Pole. A moment later, Fletcher climbed out of the plane and walked to the exact geographic North Pole, probably the first person in history to do so. In the early 20th century, American explorers Robert Peary and Dr. Frederick Cook, both claiming to have separately reached the North Pole by land, publicly disputed each other’s claims. In 1911, Congress formally recognized Peary’s claim. In recent years, further studies of the conflicting claims suggest that neither expedition reached the exact North Pole, but that Peary came far closer, falling perhaps 30 miles short. In 1952, Lieutenant-Colonel Fletcher was the first person to undisputedly stand on the North Pole. Standing alongside Fletcher on the top of the world was Dr. Albert P. Crary, a scientist who in 1961 traveled to the South Pole by motorized vehicle, becoming the first person in history to have stood on both poles.)

Group picture in front of the airplane on the North Pole.

Acknowledged Sources:

* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology http://canadachannel.ca/todayincanadianhistory/index.php

* On This Day – History, Film, Music and Sport       http://www.onthisday.com/

* This Day In History – What Happened Today    http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/

 

 

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Author: John Fioravanti

I'm a retired History teacher (35 years), husband, father of three, grandfather of three. My wife, Anne, and I became business partners in December, 2013, and launched our own publishing company, Fiora Books (http://fiorabooks.com), to publish my books. We have been married since 1973 and hope our joint business venture will be as successful as our marriage.

3 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not … May 3rd”

  1. Happy Hump Day, John! I’ve been away on vacation, so this is my first “Believe it or Not” in a while 🙂
    I never knew the history behind In Flanders Fields or how MADD was established, but I do remember all the news coverage on little Madeleine McCann. Thanks for another informative history and social lesson today!

    Liked by 1 person

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