Sunday, July 12, 2009

Winecoff Hotel Fire

Located in Atlanta, Georgia, the Winecoff Hotel has become most famous for a fire that occurred there on December 7th, 1946, in which 119 people died. It remains the deadliest hotel fire in the history of the United States, and prompted many changes in building and safety codes.

Guests at the hotel that night included teenagers attending a Tri-Y Youth Conference, Christmas shoppers, and people in town to see Song of the South. Arnold Hardy, a 26-year-old graduate student at Georgia Tech, became the first amateur to win a Pulitzer Prize in photography for his snapshot of a woman (later identified as survivor Daisy McCumber) in mid-air after jumping from the 11th floor of the hotel during the fire.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Miracle On Ice

The "Miracle on Ice" is the nickname given to a February 22nd medal-round men's hockey game that took place in Lake Placid, New York during the 1980 Olympic Winter Games. A team of amateur and collegiate players from the United States, led by coach Herb Brooks, defeated the Soviet team, who most considered to be the best international hockey team in the world, 4–3.

The United States went on to win the Gold Medal by beating Finland by a score of 4 to 2 in their final medal round game. The Soviet Union took the Silver Medal by beating Sweden in their final game. Sweden took home the Bronze Medal, with Finland finishing fourth.

As part of the its 100th anniversary celebrations in 2008, the International Ice Hockey Federation picked the Miracle on Ice as the top international hockey story of the 20th century.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Baby Jessica McClure

Born on March 26th, 1986, Jessica Morales née McClure became a media sensation at the mere age of 18 months after she fell into a well in Midland, Texas on October 14th, 1987.

She was rescued on October 16th, 1987 after rescue workers worked for 58 hours straight to free "Baby Jessica" from the eight-inch-wide hole that she had fell into. The story gained worldwide media attention (leading many to label it a media circus), and later became the story of an ABC TV movie aired in 1989. As the movie demonstrated, a vital part of the rescue was the use of the then relatively new technology of waterjet cutting.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Waco Siege

The Waco Siege, often referred to as the Waco Massacre, started on February 28th, 1993 when the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) attempted to execute a search warrant at the Branch Davidian ranch at Mount Carmel, a property located about nine miles east-northeast of Waco, Texas. An exchange of gunfire resulted in the deaths of four agents and five Branch Davidians. A subsequent 51-day siege by the Federal Bureau of Investigation ended on April 19th, 2003 when fire destroyed the compound. Eighty-one people eventually died, including more than 20 children and two pregnant women, along with Davidian leader David Koresh.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Maersk Alabama Hijacking & Rescue

On April 8th, 2009, with a crew of 21 Americans, the Maersk Alabama was en route to Mombasa, Kenya. The Moller-Maersk Group, the largest container shipping company in the world, is one of the United States Department of Defense's primary shipping contractors. The ship was reported to be carrying 17,000 metric tons of cargo, of which 5,000 metric tons were relief supplies bound for Somalia, Uganda, and Kenya. According to second mate Ken Quinn, the pirates sank their speedboat shortly after boarding the Alabama early on Wednesday, April 8th. As the pirates were boarding the ship, the crew members locked themselves in a room.

The crew soon used "brute force" to retake control of the ship, and overpowered one of the pirates. The ship's captain, Richard Phillips, 53, surrendered himself to ensure his crew's safety. The crew attempted to trade the pirate they had captured and tied up for twelve hours for the captain, but after the crew released their captive, the pirates refused to honor the agreement. They fled in one of the ship's covered lifeboats with nine days of food rations and took Phillips with them

On Sunday, April 12th, 2009, Capt. Richard Phillips was rescued, reportedly in good condition, from his pirate captors. The commander of United States Fifth Fleet Vice Admiral William E. Gortney reported the rescue began when Commander Frank Castellano, captain of the Bainbridge, determined that Phillips' life was in imminent danger and ordered the action. President Barack Obama had previously given standing orders to take action if it was determined Phillips' life was in immediate danger. The Vice Admiral reported that U.S. Navy SEAL snipers on the Bainbridge's fantail opened fire and killed the three pirates remaining in the lifeboat with a simultaneous volley of three shots. At the time, the Bainbridge had the lifeboat under tow, approximately 25 to 30 yards astern. A fourth pirate was aboard the USS Bainbridge negotiating a ransom and was taken into custody. The U.S. Navy evacuated Captain Phillips via RHIB boat to the USS Bainbridge and then flew him by helicopter to the USS Boxer for medical evaluation.

Monday, April 13, 2009

US Airways Flight 1549

US Airways Flight 1549, flown by Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger was a scheduled commercial passenger flight from New York City to Charlotte, North Carolina, that, on January 15th, 2009, ditched in the Hudson River adjacent to Manhattan six minutes after departing from LaGuardia Airport.

On it's initial climb the Airbus A320 struck a flock of Canada Geese which resulted in an immediate almost complete loss of thrust from both engines. When the aircrew determined that the plane would be unable to safely reach any airfield from its location just northeast of the George Washington Bridge, they turned it southbound and glided over the river, then ditched the airliner virtually intact near the USS Intrepid Museum in midtown Manhattan. After the 155 occupants safely evacuated the partially submerged and sinking plane they were all rescued by nearby watercraft.

The entire crew of Flight 1549 was later awarded the Master's Medal of the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators. The award citation read, "This emergency ditching and evacuation, with the loss of no lives, is a heroic and unique aviation achievement."

Friday, April 10, 2009

Tear Down This Wall

Built in 1961, the Berlin Wall became known as a symbol of communism. Arriving in Berlin on June 12th, 1987, U.S President Ronald Reagan was taken to the Reichstag, where he viewed the wall from a balcony. Reagan then made his speech at the Brandenburg Gate at 2 PM, in front of two panes of bulletproof glass protecting him from potential snipers in East Berlin. About 45,000 people were in attendance; among the spectators were German president Richard von Weizsäcker, Chancellor Helmut Kohl, and Berlin mayor Eberhard Diepgen. That afternoon, Reagan issued challenge to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, saying:

We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace. There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!