John’s Believe It Or Not… July 6th

In 2013 – Unattended 74-car oil train derails at 100 kph in Lac-Mégantic and explodes. In 1957 Althea Gibson is first African American to win Wimbledon. In 1942 Frank family takes refuge. In 1967 Civil war in Nigeria. In 1976 Women inducted into U.S. Naval Academy.

John Fioravanti is standing in front of the blackboard in his classroom.

It’s Therapeutic Thursday! Did you know…

* 2013 – Unattended 74-car oil train derails at 100 kph in Lac-Mégantic and explodes. (Unattended 74-car freight train carrying crude oil runs away, rolls downhill for 11 km and derails at a speed of 100 kph in the town of Lac-Mégantic at approximately 01:15 EDT; the resulting fire and explosion of multiple tank cars kill 47 people and incinerates the centre of the town; more than 30 buildings, about half of the downtown area, are destroyed; 2,000 people evacuated; all but three of the 39 remaining downtown buildings will be demolished due to petroleum contamination of the townsite; millions of litres of crude leaked into nearby water bodies; fourth deadliest rail accident in Canadian history, and the deadliest involving a non-passenger train.

Freight trains operated by MMA were allowed (not “permitted”, see below) by regulators in Canada (Transport Canada) and the United States (Federal Railroad Administration) to have Single Person Train Operation (SPTO, alternately OPTO) status (1 operator). The “permit” process, which requires public input, was not followed. The Canadian regulator and the MMA entered into a negotiation process at the culmination of which, sometime before the second week of July 2012, the government allowed MMA to reduce their manpower to SPTO. An average of 80 tank cars per train was carried on this route under the supervision of one person only. The Maine regulator had already allowed SPTO status before the first week of April 2012. The use of SPTO for MMA freight trains was a cost-cutting move for which the railway company has received much criticism. In May 2010, former MMA engineer Jarod Briggs of Millinocket, Maine explained to the Bangor Daily News that “so much could happen in a 12-hour shift on one of these trains, such as a washed-out track, downed trees or mechanical failure. What if the engineer onboard were to encounter a medical problem? Who is going to know about it? If there is a fire engine or an ambulance needing to get by a train or a crossing when that happens, it could take hours.” Briggs left MMA to work for another railway in 2007; while he described the lone crew member involved in the Lac-Mégantic derailment as “a very good engineer, one of the better on the property”, he has long expressed safety concerns about the company’s overall train operations because “if you have two people watching you can catch a mistake. It was all about cutting, cutting, cutting.”)

File picture shows fire from a train explosion in Lac-Megantic. “
File picture shows fire from a train explosion in Lac-Megantic. “TRAIN/BURKHARDT REUTERS/Stringer/Files (The Art of Annihilation)

* 1957 Althea Gibson is first African American to win Wimbledon. (On this day in 1957, Althea Gibson claims the women’s singles tennis title at Wimbledon and becomes the first African American to win a championship at London’s All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club.

Gibson was born on August 25, 1927, in Silver, South Carolina, and raised in the Harlem section of New York City. She began playing tennis as a teenager and went on to win the national black women’s championship twice. At a time when tennis was largely segregated, four-time U.S. Nationals winner Alice Marble advocated on Gibson’s behalf and the 5’11” player was invited to make her U.S. Open debut in 1950. In 1956, Gibson’s tennis career took off and she won the singles title at the French Open–the first African-American to do so–as well as the doubles’ title there. In July 1957, Gibson won Wimbledon, defeating Darlene Hard, 6-3, 6-2. (In 1975, Arthur Ashe became the first African-American man to win the men’s singles title at Wimbledon, when he defeated Jimmy Connors.) In September 1957, she won the U.S. Open, and the Associated Press named her Female Athlete of the Year in 1957 and 1958. During the 1950s, Gibson won 56 singles and doubles titles, including 11 major titles.

After winning Wimbledon and the U.S. Open again in 1958, Gibson retired from amateur tennis. In 1960, she toured with the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team, playing exhibition tennis matches before their games. In 1964, Gibson joined the Ladies Professional Golf Association Tour, the first black woman to do so. The trailblazing athlete played pro golf until 1971, the same year in which she was voted into the National Lawn Tennis Association Hall of Fame.

After serving as New Jersey’s commissioner of athletics from 1975 to 1985, Althea Gibson died at age 76 from respiratory failure on September 28, 2003, at a hospital in East Orange, New Jersey.)

Gibson (right) receives a kiss from compatriot Darlene Hard, who she beat to become the first black woman to win the Wimbledon title in 1957.
Gibson (right) receives a kiss from compatriot Darlene Hard, who she beat to become the first black woman to win the Wimbledon title in 1957.

* 1942 Frank family takes refuge.  (In Nazi-occupied Holland, 13-year-old Jewish diarist Anne Frank and her family are forced to take refuge in a secret sealed-off area of an Amsterdam warehouse. The day before, Anne’s older sister, Margot, had received a call-up notice to be deported to a Nazi “work camp.”

Born in Germany on June 12, 1929, Anne Frank fled to Amsterdam with her family in 1933 to escape Nazi persecution. In the summer of 1942, with the German occupation of Holland underway, 12-year-old Anne began a diary relating her everyday experiences, her relationship with her family and friends, and observations about the increasingly dangerous world around her. On July 6, fearing deportation to a Nazi concentration camp, the Frank family took shelter in a factory run by Christian friends. During the next two years, under the threat of murder by the Nazi officers patrolling just outside the warehouse, Anne kept a diary that is marked by poignancy, humor, and insight.

On August 4, 1944, just two months after the successful Allied landing at Normandy, the Nazi Gestapo discovered the Frank’s “Secret Annex.” The Franks were sent to the Nazi death camps along with two of the Christians who had helped shelter them, and another Jewish family and a single Jewish man with whom they had shared the hiding place. Anne and most of the others ended up at the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. Anne’s diary was left behind, undiscovered by the Nazis.

In early 1945, with the Soviet liberation of Poland underway, Anne was moved with her sister, Margot, to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany. Suffering from the deplorable conditions of the camp, the two sisters caught typhus and died in early March. After the war, Anne’s diary was discovered undisturbed in the Amsterdam hiding place and in 1947 was translated into English and published. An instant best-seller and eventually translated into more than 30 languages, The Diary of Anne Frank has served as a literary testament to the six million Jews, including Anne herself, who were silenced in the Holocaust.)

Frank family takes refuge on July 06, 1942
Frank family takes refuge on July 06, 1942 (Old Sailors Almanac)

* 1967 Civil war in Nigeria. (Five weeks after its secession from Nigeria, the breakaway Republic of Biafra is attacked by Nigerian government forces.

In 1960, Nigeria gained independence from Britain. Six years later, the Muslim Hausas in northern Nigeria began massacring the Christian Igbos in the region, prompting tens of thousands of Igbos to flee to the east, where their people were the dominant ethnic group. The Igbos doubted that Nigeria’s oppressive military government would allow them to develop, or even survive, so on May 30, 1967, Lieutenant Colonel Odumegwu Ojukwu and other non-Igbo representatives of the area established the Republic of Biafra, comprising several states of Nigeria.

After diplomatic efforts by Nigeria failed to reunite the country, war between Nigeria and Biafra broke out in July 1967. Ojukwu’s forces made some initial advances, but Nigeria’s superior military strength gradually reduced Biafran territory. The state lost its oil fields–its main source of revenue–and without the funds to import food, an estimated one million of its civilians died as a result of severe malnutrition. On January 11, 1970, Nigerian forces captured the provincial capital of Owerri, one of the last Biafran strongholds, and Ojukwu was forced to flee to the Ivory Coast. Four days later, Biafra surrendered to Nigeria.)

Starvation used as instrument of war by Nigeria
Starvation used as instrument of war by Nigeria (Lower Niger Congress – USA)

* 1976 Women inducted into U.S. Naval Academy. (In Annapolis, Maryland, the United States Naval Academy admits women for the first time in its history with the induction of 81 female midshipmen. In May 1980, Elizabeth Anne Rowe became the first woman member of the class to graduate. Four years later, Kristine Holderied became the first female midshipman to graduate at the top of her class.

The U.S. Naval Academy opened in Annapolis in October 1845, with 50 midshipmen students and seven professors. Known as the Naval School until 1850, the curriculum included mathematics, navigation, gunnery, steam, chemistry, English, natural philosophy, and French. The Naval School officially became the U.S. Naval Academy in 1850, and a new curriculum went into effect requiring midshipmen to study at the Academy for four years and to train aboard ships each summer–the basic format that remains at the academy to this day.)

Life not easy for first class of women at U.S. Naval Academy
Life not easy for first class of women at U.S. Naval Academy (

Today’s Sources:

* Canadian History Timeline – Canada’s Historical Chronology

* This Day In History – What Happened Today


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 (, to publish my books. We have been married since 1973 and hope our joint business venture will be as successful as our marriage.

17 thoughts on “John’s Believe It Or Not… July 6th”

  1. To step back and think that Anne Frank went into hiding today, and Althea won Wimbledon, and USNA had women inductees. My comments aren’t on women, but the incredible events in history. Thank you, John.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Althea Gibson made waves in 2 sports, not just 1, wowowowo! Awesome 🙂 Not so awesome, of course, is the heartbreaking story of the Frank family, although it needs to be shared as so many valuable lessons to learn from it.. Hugs sending to you right now

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The train disaster is shocking…and for me, especially so, because I don’t recall hearing about it. How could I not?! That story and the others, each powerful for different reasons, tug at the heart…and remind us of our potential – both positive and negative. Thank you, John.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As you can imagine, on this 4th anniversary of the train disaster, our news programs are full of the pictures from that awful day. Cost cuts. Right. I agree Anne Frank will be an inspiration well into the future, John. Thanks for your thoughts.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Another amazing post – ups and downs, emotionally.

    “In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again.” ~ Anne Frank’s Diary
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
    ADD/EFD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
    “It takes a village to educate a world!”

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I love the first sentence of that quote – and I rarely see it in the context of the remainder. Anne Frank and her diary offer an amazing testimony to the resilience and essential goodness of the human spirit.

        I struggle some days to hold the thought that the *majority* of us have NOT gone over to the dark side, despite horrendous examples dotting history (and the news today). I need those contrast reminders.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Anne Frank was an amazing person! I agree that we all need these contrast reminders – and to focus on the good and hopeful rather than the ugly. Which is not to deny the bad stuff – I think we need to learn not to dwell on it.

          Liked by 1 person

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