April presents an opportunity for civic vigilance. Our attention to little things we might otherwise disregard can make the difference. It’s the month when spring blooms, baseball season hits full swing and procrastinators across the U.S. wait until the last minute to pay Uncle Sam his cash.
But April has another, more dubious, distinction as perhaps the most violent month of them all. As a result, April has sometimes been considered the most tragic in our history. The start of wars, natural disasters, and violent crimes – April has seen it all, which makes the month of particular interest to threat assessment professionals and researchers.
In short: April offers a history lesson.
The 30 days of April reveal a gruesome cluster of homicidal incidents, including some of the worst school shootings in history — not only in the US, but also in Germany, Kenya, Brazil and Australia. Abraham Lincoln (1865) and Martin Luther King Jr. (1968) were both killed in April. Today’s communities now face killers who pay homage to Columbine, other violent anniversaries and even Adolf Hitler’s birthday (April 20) by acting on the same dates.
A Way to Talk About It
We teach history to learn from it. April is a special month to make history part of a family, school or group discussion. Clearly, this is not a comfortable or easy dinner conversation to have with your teenagers or younger children. Approaching it as part of the history of the United States can be a bridge to contextualize what otherwise are simply unbearable facts. “April is a month that looms large in the calendar of many extremists in the United States, from racists and anti-Semites to anti-government groups,” the Anti-Defamation League has warned. “Because of these anniversaries, law enforcement officers, community leaders and school officials should be vigilant.” 2013: Boston Marathon, 2007: Virginia Tech Shooting, 1999: Columbine Shooting, 1995: Oklahoma City Bombing all happened in April.
The Past and the Present
April is known for conflict and bloodshed. Making the connection between the past and the present can put unfathomable violent events into perspective:
1775: The first military engagements marking the beginning of the American Revolutionary War happened on April 19, 1775.
1803: The Louisiana Purchase was a treaty settled on April 30, 1803 in which the US bought the territory of Louisiana from France. The US bought 828,000 square miles for $15 million, valuing each square mile as eighteen dollars. The deal, which effectively doubled the size of the country, has become known as one of our best deals. In 1812, Louisiana became the 18th state.
1846: The Mexican–American War, also known in Mexico as the Intervención Estadounidense en México, was an armed conflict between the two countries from 1846 to 1848. It followed the 1845 U.S. annexation of Texas.
1861: The Civil War, also known as The War Between States, was the biggest -- and deadliest -- conflict on US soil and lasted from 1861 to 1865. The war was fought between the northern states (the Union) and the southern states (the Confederacy) and began on April 12, 1861, with the Confederate forces’ attacking Fort Sumter in South Carolina after Abraham Lincoln was elected president. The war was a result of the controversial and diverging opinions regarding states’ rights and slavery in America..
1865: On April 14, 1865, Lincoln, the 16th US president, was assassinated at Ford’s Theatre in Washington D.C., while watching a production of “Our American Cousin.” His attacker was a Confederate sympathizer and famous actor, John Wilkes Booth. Lincoln passed away the next day, only six days after the Confederate army surrendered,ending the Civil War. In the war’s aftermath the Confederacy collapsed, slavery was abolished, and four million slaves were freed, with black people being granted rights as American citizens. Lincoln was the first American president to be assassinated while in office.
1865: Just a few days after the Civil War ended, the Sultana, a 260-foot-long wooden Mississippi River steamboat exploded on April 27, killing 1,168 people -- the worst maritime disaster in UnS history.
1898: The Spanish American War, an conflict between Spain and America, that started on April 21 and ended with Spain being expelled from the Americas. The US then took over the territories that previously belonged to the Spanish in Latin America and the western Pacific.