Hey! It’s Tuesday! Did you know…
* 2005 Hurricane Katrina slams into Gulf Coast.
Hurricane Katrina makes landfall near New Orleans, Louisiana, as a Category 4 hurricane on this day in 2005. Despite being only the third most powerful storm of the 2005 hurricane season, Katrina was the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States. After briefly coming ashore in southern Florida on August 25 as a Category 1 hurricane, Katrina gained strength before slamming into the Gulf Coast on August 29. In addition to bringing devastation to the New Orleans area, the hurricane caused damage along the coasts of Mississippi and Alabama, as well as other parts of Louisiana.
New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin ordered a mandatory evacuation of the city on August 28, when Katrina briefly achieved Category 5 status and the National Weather Service predicted “devastating” damage to the area. But an estimated 150,000 people, who either did not want to or did not have the resources to leave, ignored the order and stayed behind. The storm brought sustained winds of 145 miles per hour, which cut power lines and destroyed homes, even turning cars into projectile missiles. Katrina caused record storm surges all along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The surges overwhelmed the levees that protected New Orleans, located at six feet below sea level, from Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River. Soon, 80 percent of the city was flooded up to the rooftops of many homes and small buildings.
Tens of thousands of people sought shelter at the New Orleans Convention Center and the Louisiana Superdome. The situation in both places quickly deteriorated, as food and water ran low and conditions became unsanitary. Frustration mounted as it took up to two days for a full-scale relief effort to begin. In the meantime, the stranded residents suffered from heat, hunger, and a lack of medical care. Reports of looting, rape, and even murder began to surface. As news networks broadcast scenes from the devastated city to the world, it became obvious that a vast majority of the victims were African-American and poor, leading to difficult questions among the public about the state of racial equality in the United States. The federal government and President George W. Bush were roundly criticized for what was perceived as their slow response to the disaster. The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Michael Brown, resigned amid the ensuing controversy.
Finally, on September 1, the tens of thousands of people staying in the damaged Superdome and Convention Center begin to be moved to the Astrodome in Houston, Texas, and another mandatory evacuation order was issued for the city. The next day, military convoys arrived with supplies and the National Guard was brought in to bring a halt to lawlessness. Efforts began to collect and identify corpses. On September 6, eight days after the hurricane, the Army Corps of Engineers finally completed temporary repairs to the three major holes in New Orleans’ levee system and were able to begin pumping water out of the city.
In all, it is believed that the hurricane caused more than 1,300 deaths and up to $150 billion in damages to both private property and public infrastructure. It is estimated that only about $40 billion of that number will be covered by insurance. One million people were displaced by the disaster, a phenomenon unseen in the United States since the Great Depression. Four hundred thousand people lost their jobs as a result of the disaster. Offers of international aid poured in from around the world, even from poor countries like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Private donations from U.S. citizens alone approached $600 million.
The storm also set off 36 tornadoes in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, resulting in one death.
President Bush declared September 16 a national day of remembrance for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
* 1533 Pizarro Executes Last Inca Emperor
Atahualpa, the 13th and last emperor of the Incas, dies by strangulation at the hands of Francisco Pizarro’s Spanish conquistadors. The execution of Atahualpa, the last free reigning Emperor, marked the end of 300 years of Inca civilization.
High in the Andes Mountains of Peru, the Inca built a dazzling empire that governed a population of 12 million people. Although they had no writing system, they had an elaborate government, great public works, and a brilliant agricultural system. In the five years before the Spanish arrival, a devastating war of succession gripped the empire. In 1532, Atahuallpa’s army defeated the forces of his half-brother Huascar in a battle near Cuzco. Atahuallpa was consolidating his rule when Pizarro and his 180 soldiers appeared.
Francisco Pizarro was the son of a Spanish gentleman and worked as a swine herder in his youth. He became a soldier and in 1502 went to Hispaniola with the new Spanish governor of the New World colony. Pizarro served under Spanish conquistador Alonso de Ojeda during his expedition to Colombia in 1510 and was with Vasco Nunez de Balboa when he discovered the Pacific Ocean in 1513. Hearing legends of the great wealth of an Indian civilization in South America, Pizarro formed an alliance with fellow conquistador Diego de Almagro in 1524 and sailed down the west coast of South America from Panama. The first expedition only penetrated as far as present-day Ecuador, but a second reached further, to present-day Peru. There they heard firsthand accounts of the Inca empire and obtained Inca artifacts. The Spanish christened the new land Peru, probably after the Vire River.
Returning to Panama, Pizarro planned an expedition of conquest, but the Spanish governor refused to back the scheme. In 1528, Pizarro sailed back to Spain to ask the support of Emperor Charles V. Hernan Cortes had recently brought the Emperor great wealth through his conquest of the Aztec Empire, and Charles approved Pizarro’s plan. He also promised that Pizarro, not Almagro, would receive the majority of the expedition’s profits. In 1530, Pizarro returned to Panama.
In 1531, he sailed down to Peru, landing at Tumbes. He led his army up the Andes Mountains and on November 15, 1532, reached the Inca town of Cajamarca, where Atahualpa was enjoying the hot springs in preparation for his march on Cuzco, the capital of his brother’s kingdom. Pizarro invited Atahualpa to attend a feast in his honor, and the emperor accepted. Having just won one of the largest battles in Inca history, and with an army of 30,000 men at his disposal, Atahualpa thought he had nothing to fear from the bearded white stranger and his 180 men. Pizarro, however, planned an ambush, setting up his artillery at the square of Cajamarca.
On November 16, Atahualpa arrived at the meeting place with an escort of several thousand men, all apparently unarmed. Pizarro sent out a priest to exhort the emperor to accept the sovereignty of Christianity and Emperor Charles V., and Atahualpa refused, flinging a Bible handed to him to the ground in disgust. Pizarro immediately ordered an attack. Buckling under an assault by the terrifying Spanish artillery, guns, and cavalry (all of which were alien to the Incas), thousands of Incas were slaughtered, and the emperor was captured.
Atahualpa offered to fill a room with treasure as ransom for his release, and Pizarro accepted. Eventually, some 24 tons of gold and silver were brought to the Spanish from throughout the Inca empire. Although Atahualpa had provided the richest ransom in the history of the world, Pizarro treacherously put him on trial for plotting to overthrow the Spanish, for having his half-brother Huascar murdered, and for several other lesser charges. A Spanish tribunal convicted Atahualpa and sentenced him to die. On August 29, 1533, the emperor was tied to a stake and offered the choice of being burned alive or strangled by garrote if he converted to Christianity. In the hope of preserving his body for mummification, Atahualpa chose the latter, and an iron collar was tightened around his neck until he died.
* 1975 Eamon de Valera dies.
Eamon de Valera, the most dominant Irish political figure of the 20th century, dies at the age of 92.
Eamon de Valera was born in New York City in 1882, the son of a Spanish father and Irish mother. When his father died two years later, he was sent to live with his mother’s family in County Limerick, Ireland. He attended the Royal University of Dublin and became an important figure in the Irish-language revival movement.
In 1913, he joined the Irish Volunteers, a militant group that advocated Ireland’s independence from Britain, and in 1916 participated in the Easter Rising against the British in Dublin. He was the last Irish rebel leader to surrender and was saved from execution because of his American birth. Imprisoned, he was released in 1917 under a general amnesty and became president of the nationalist Sinn FÉin Party. In May 1918, he was deported to England and imprisoned again, and in December Sinn Fein won an Irish national election, making him the unofficial leader of Ireland.
In February 1919, he escaped from jail and fled to the United States, where he raised funds for the Irish Republican movement. When he returned to Ireland in 1920, Sinn Fein and the Irish Republican Army (IRA) were engaged in a widespread and effective guerrilla campaign against British forces. In 1921, a truce was declared, and in 1922 Arthur Griffith and other former Sinn Fein leaders broke with de Valera and signed a treaty with Britain, which called for the partition of Ireland, with the south becoming autonomous and the six northern counties of the island remaining part of the United Kingdom. In the period of civil war that followed, de Valera supported the Republicans against the Irish Free State (the new government of the autonomous south) and was imprisoned by William Cosgrave’s Irish Free State ministry.
In 1924, he was released and two years later left Sinn Fein, which had become the unofficial political wing of the underground movement for northern independence. He formed Fianna FÁil, and in 1932 the party gained control of the DÁil Éireann (the Irish assembly), and de Valera became Taoiseach or Irish prime minister. For the next 16 years, de Valera pursued a policy of political separation from Great Britain, including the introduction of a new constitution in 1937, which declared Ireland a fully sovereign state. During World War II, he maintained a policy of neutrality but repressed anti-British intrigues within the IRA.
In 1948, he narrowly lost reelection because of negative public reaction to his party’s long monopoly of power. Out of office, he toured the world advocating the unification and independence of Ireland. His successor as taoiseach, John Costello, officially made Ireland an independent republic in 1949 but nonetheless lost the prime minister’s office to de Valera in the 1951 election. The relative Irish economic prosperity of the 1940s declined in the 1950s, and Costello began a second ministry in 1954, only to be replaced again by de Valera in 1957. In 1959, de Valera resigned as prime minister and was elected Irish president–a largely ceremonial post. On June 24, 1973, de Valera, then the world’s oldest statesman, retired from Irish politics at the age of 90. He died two years later.
* 1987 “La Bamba” is a #1 hit for Los Lobos and, posthumously, Ritchie Valens.
In one of pop music’s most famous and beautiful turns of phrase, songwriter Don McLean called the date on which the world lost Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson “the Day the Music Died. ” But while three rising young pop stars may have died on February 3, 1959, their music certainly didn’t die with them. On August 29, 1987, nearly 30 years after the most famous plane crash in music history, Ritchie Valens, the youngest of that crash’s three famous victims, made a return of sorts to the top of the pop charts when his signature tune, “La Bamba,” became a #1 hit for the band Los Lobos, from Valens’ own hometown of Los Angeles, California.
Richard Stevens Valenzuela was a 17-year-old San Fernando Valley high school student when he adapted “La Bamba,” a traditional folk song from Veracruz, Mexico, into the vernacular of rock and roll. In climbing to #22 on the Billboard pop chart in January 1959, “La Bamba” became the biggest Spanish-language rock-and-roll hit in history, though the young man who recorded it did not himself speak Spanish. This interesting fact about Ritchie Valens’s life did not become known to many until the release of the hugely successful Hollywood biopic La Bamba, which sent the song from which it took its title on a second run up the pop charts, culminating in its ascent to the #1 slot on this day in 1987.
The Los Angeles alternative rock band Los Lobos was a natural choice to record the La Bamba soundtrack. Though their own work is difficult to categorize, Los Lobos were longtime veterans of the L.A. club scene who could tear through early rock-and-roll classics as easily as they could open for acts as diverse as Bob Dylan and Public Image, Ltd. Though their posthumous memorials to Ritchie Valens (“La Bamba” and “Come On Let’s Go,” both from the La Bamba soundtrack) were the only top-40 hits ever recorded by Los Lobos, their under-the-radar pop career includes many unique and critically acclaimed works (e.g., 1983’s Will The Wolf Survive? and 2003’s Good Morning Aztlàn) that fell just far enough outside both the pop and Latin mainstreams as to miss being true commercial hits.
* 1958 Michael Jackson is born.
Pop sensation Michael Jackson is born on this day in Gary, Indiana.
Jackson began performing with his four brothers in the pop group the Jackson 5 when he was a child. The group scored its first No. 1 single in 1969, with “I Want You Back.” By age 11, Jackson was appearing on TV, and by age 14 he had released his first solo album. A Jackson 5 TV cartoon series appeared in the early ’70s, and in 1976 the Jackson family, including sister Janet Jackson, launched a TV variety show called The Jacksons that ran for one season. Throughout the 70s, media attention focused on Michael, who piped vocals in his high voice for “ABC,” “I’ll Be There,” and many other Top 20 hits.
Jackson released several solo albums in the ’70s, but his great breakthrough came in 1979 with Off the Wall. He became the first solo artist to score four Top 10 hits from one album, including “She’s Out of My Life” and “Rock with You.” His next album, Thriller (1983), became the biggest selling album up to that time, selling some 45 million copies around the world. This time, he scored seven Top 10 singles, and the album won eight Grammies. Although his next album, Bad (1987), sold only about half as many copies as Thriller, it was still a tremendous best-seller. In 1991, Jackson signed an unprecedented $65 million record deal with Sony. That year, he released Dangerous.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Jackson developed a reputation as an eccentric recluse. He moved to a 2,700-acre ranch called Neverland, which he outfitted with wild animals and a Ferris wheel. He underwent a facelift and nose job and was rumored to have lightened his skin through chemical treatment, though he claimed his increasing pallor was due to a skin disease. In 1993, a scandal broke when Jackson was publicly accused of child molestation and underwent investigation. The case settled out of court. In 1994, Jackson married Lisa Marie Presley; the couple later divorced. Jackson married Deborah Rowe in 1996, and the couple had two sons, Prince and Paris, before divorcing in 1999.
On June 13, 2005, Jackson was acquitted of sexual molestation of a young boy, Gavin Arvizo, in criminal court.
Michael Jackson died on June 25, 2009, in Los Angeles, California, just weeks before a planned concert tour billed as his “comeback.” He was 50 years old.
* This Day In History – What Happened Today http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/