ancestryink fisherman

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

When bad things happen, like the bombing yesterday in my beloved city of Boston, I sometimes find solace and perspective by searching through historic events for similar situations.  Maybe it is just to reassure myself that the clock kept ticking, human courage was observed, people recovered and fearlessly went on about their days, and the city renewed itself. 

Two significant explosions happened in Boston: one in 1875 and the other in 1897.

What is the difference between these two events, and yesterday's horrific occurrence? 

These earlier events in history were accidental and due to burst gas mains.  No one intentionally prepared explosives meant to kill and maim as many people as possible.  They were no less tragic, but it gives one pause to think that in our current climate of worldwide terrorism, our advances in technology, science and communication, and yes - government precautions - have probably lessened the amount of accidental tragedies, while random terrorism events of deadly force outside of the theater of war, by individuals or groups, have increased.  (Though, we still cannot control hurricanes, avalanches, mudslides, and tornadoes!)

Here is a news clipping following the 1875 explosion: *

The gas main led from the Federal Street bridge in Boston, up along the causeway towards Dorchester Ave. in South Boston.  It was believed that cold air trapped gas from the leaking main, below ground, and something ignited it.  The drawbridge at this location had been raised for some time, and 300 - 400 people were gathered waiting to cross from Boston to their homes in South Boston.  It was reported there was a flash, then an explosion and then debris and pavement, and some people,  flying from 175 ft. beyond the explosion point, and into the river.  There was a significant death toll and many wounded.  Two years later, the newspapers still reported on the continuing investigation of this gas main explosion.

The 1897 explosion took place at Tremont and Boylston Streets.  Again, a gas main exploded in a busy intersection of downtown Boston. Seven people died and many others were injured.  Buildings for hundreds of feet in all directions were damaged, "cars, cabs, drays and horses destroyed."

Boston police prove to be historically brave.  It was reported that "the coolness of the large squad of police...allayed much of the excitement."

click for larger image of newspaper 1897 explosion
This massive explosion is well-known in Boston's history.  Boston was constructing its first underground subway system.  The Ultimate History Project website includes a nice article entitled "Boston's First Big Dig: The 1897 Explosion,"  with historic photos of this congested area of Boston after the explosion. The following image is from their website.

1897 Explosion at Boylston and Tremont.
The following excerpt from this article is an impressive rendition of the force and effect of the explosion:

"Witnesses later testified that a tremendous boom echoed through the city just before the explosion.  Plate-glass windows shattered in almost all the buildings in the immediate vicinity of the eruption.  In the nearby Miller Piano Company, pianos vibrated and shook, adding to the din and chaos. "

Blame was sought, and the 1897 explosion investigation turned up the fact that the gas main had been reported leaking for two years.

Boston will recover - just like it did in the past.  Bostonians are courageous, stoic, take-no-nonsense folks.  Good people with a huge spirit of love and pride for their city.  Like NYC, Boston will not fall victim to fear and panic.  It's good to remember this as we view the increasing plethora of video footage and news coverage of the April 15, 2013 Boston Marathon - a day that has now taken its place in history for all the wrong reasons.

* news clippings from subscription database:

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