On the surface, April 20 is a strange and eerie day, serving as the unfortunate anniversary of countless tragic and diabolical events.
In the modern era, the day is perhaps most associated with marijuana and is dubbed “Weed Day” by those who celebrate the drug. Many people around the country either smoke or consume cannabis on 4/20, while others decry the practice.
Either way, CNN explained in a piece published on Thursday how the date came to be so intensely linked to the recreational drug.
While some of the origins are shrouded in mystery, a potential theory is that “420” was a code circulated among high schoolers at San Rafael High School back in the 1970s. Known as “the Waldos,” a group of friends at the school would often meet at 4:20 to use the drug, CNN reported.
From there, the timestamp spread and the calendar date somehow became linked to weed as well. But April 20 was a strange day well before marijuana became the focus.
First and foremost, it’s Adolf Hitler’s birthday; the Nazi leader was born April 20, 1889. Secondly, the Columbine massacre — at the time, the nation’s worst school shooting — unfolded on April 20, 1999, leaving 12 students, one teacher and two teen assailants dead.
And who could forget the BP oil disaster, which unfolded on April 20, 2010, when the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico. The environmental catastrophe captured headlines for quite some time; 11 people died, according to the BBC.
— Little Rock Police (@LRpolice) April 20, 2017
The events don’t end there, though. On April 20, 1914, a strike by Colorado coal miners turned deadly when militiamen killed men, women and children. History has more:
The conflict had begun the previous September. About 11,000 miners in southern Colorado went on strike against the powerful Colorado Fuel & Iron Corporation (CF&I) to protest low pay, dangerous working conditions, and the company’s autocratic dominance over the workers’ lives. The CF&I, which was owned by the Rockefeller family and Standard Oil, responded to the strike by immediately evicting the miners and their families from company-owned shacks. With help from the United Mine Workers, the miners moved with their families to canvas tent colonies scattered around the nearby hills and continued to strike. When the evictions failed to end the strike, the Rockefeller interests hired private detectives that attacked the tent colonies with rifles and Gatling guns.
Of course, if one looks hard enough he or she can find scores of negative (and positive) events for any given day. That said, some still look at the month of April in its entirety as being collectively depressing (hey, even author T.S. Eliot dubbed April “the cruelest month”).
There are plenty of other events that help build upon that narrative as well: the Oklahoma City Bombing unfolded on April 19, 1995. And on April 30, 1888, 230 people died in Moradabad, India, when orange-sized hail came down on the masses.
The Houston Chronicle suggested in a story published back in 2015 that the week of April 14-20 is actually a period of time that contains many tragic anniversaries, specifically for Americans.
Among the events not yet mentioned: Abraham Lincoln was shot on April 14, 1865, two Black Hawk helicopters were shot down over Ebil, Iraq, leaving 26 dead on April 14, 1994, the Titanic sank on April 15, 1912, the flooding of the Mississippi River on April 15, 1927, left 246 dead, the Boston Marathon Bombing unfolded on April 15, 2013, the Virginia Tech shooting left 32 dead on April 16, 2007 and the British invaded America on April 18, 1775. Other events can be read about here.
Again, if we’re being honest, there were some positive events that surely took place on April 20 and most certainly throughout the month. That in mind, it’s hard to ignore the aforementioned chaotic and troubling anniversaries.
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