Traditionally, priests recall two anniversary dates: the date of their ordination and the following day in which they celebrate their first mass. My “dates” are April 19 and April 20. They connect me with some rather unique events in history.
On April 19, 1865, a funeral was held at the White House for Abraham Lincoln. His coffin was then taken to the U.S. Capitol for a private memorial service in the Rotunda.
On April 19, 1993, federal agents seized the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas. Fire destroyed the structure killing 80 people, including two dozen children.
On April 19, 1995, a truck bomb destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma City. 168 people were killed and more than 680 were injured. The explosion destroyed or damaged 324 other buildings within a 16 block radius.
Only one tree in the surrounding area survived the bombing. It is a one hundred year old American Elm. It is called the Survivor Tree and it stands as a beacon of hope, survival, and resiliency.
I visited the site in 1998 (before the Memorial was built). I picked up a piece of bark lying on the ground next to the Survivor Tree. It connects me to that place, to that ground, to that Tree. I am reminded how life and death often meet in violent ways.
And just for fun: On April 19, 2005, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger was elected Pope in the first conclave of the new millennium.
On April 20, 1999, two students entered Columbine High School (Denver, Colorado), firing automatic weapons and throwing homemade bombs. 13 people were killed and 24 others were injured before the two students committed suicide.
April 20, 1889, Adolf Hitler was born in Austria-Hungary.
April 20, 1923, Mother Angelica (EWTN) was born in Canton, OH.
And just for fun: April 20 (4/20) is celebrated by pot smokers. Cannabis lovers call this “Weed Day.”