Good morning, it’s Tuesday, March 18, the 77th day of 2014. There are 288 days left in the year. Temperatures will be in the lower 40s at the start of the day, but should rise to around 80 this afternoon under a sunny sky. The afternoon will be breezy with south winds of 20 to 25 mph. Overnight, temperatures will fall back into the 40s.
At 3:05 p.m. on March 18, 1937—77 years ago today--a manual training instructor flipped the switch on a sanding machine, creating a spark that ignited a mixture of natural gas and air, leveling the New London School in northwest Rusk County, about 40 miles southwest of Longview. Witnesses later said the walls of the school bulged outward and the roof briefly lifted in the air. Then the roof collapsed, burying victims under tons of brick, steel and debris. About 600 students and 40 teachers were in the building at the time. Fewer than 150 completely escaped injury and nearly 300 died, although the number could be higher because it was unclear how many of the transient oilfield workers whose children attended the school collected bodies and then left the area. Many of the bodies the rescuers recovered were burned or mangled beyond recognition. The “green” or “wet” gas had no smell and no one knew the line was leaking and that gas had accumulated beneath the building. The explosion led to passage of a state odorization law, which is responsible for the distinctive smell natural gas has now.
Today's Highlight in History:
On March 18, 1974, most of the Arab oil-producing nations ended their 5-month-old embargo against the United States that had been sparked by American support for Israel in the Yom Kippur War.
On This Date:
In 1766, Britain repealed the Stamp Act of 1765.
In 1837, the 22nd and 24th president of the United States, Grover Cleveland, was born in Caldwell, N.J.
In 1913, King George I of Greece was assassinated in Thessaloniki.
In 1937, some 300 people, mostly children, were killed in a gas explosion at a school in New London, Texas.
In 1938, Mexican President Lazaro Cardenas nationalized his country's petroleum reserves and took control of foreign-owned oil facilities.
In 1940, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini met at the Brenner Pass, where the Italian dictator agreed to join Germany's war against France and Britain.
In 1959, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Hawaii statehood bill (Hawaii became a state on Aug. 21, 1959).
In 1962, France and Algerian rebels signed the Evian Accords, a cease-fire agreement which took effect the next day, ending the Algerian War.
In 1963, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Gideon v. Wainwright, ruled unanimously that state courts were required to provide legal counsel to criminal defendants who could not afford to hire an attorney on their own.
In 1965, the first spacewalk took place as Soviet cosmonaut Alexei Leonov went outside his Voskhod 2 capsule, secured by a tether.
In 1980, Frank Gotti, the 12-year-old youngest son of mobster John Gotti, was struck and killed by a car driven by John Favara, a neighbor in Queens, N.Y. (The following July, Favara vanished, the apparent victim of a gang hit.)
In 1990, thieves made off with 13 works of art from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston (the crime remains unsolved).
Ten years ago:
Addressing thousands of soldiers at Fort Campbell, Ky., President George W. Bush warned that terrorists could never be appeased and said there was no safety for any nation that "lives at the mercy of gangsters and mass murderers." Overruling its staff, the Federal Communications Commission declared that an expletive (the "F-word") uttered by rock star Bono on NBC the previous year was both indecent and profane. (The commissioners did not propose a fine for Bono's expletive during the 2003 Golden Globe Awards.)
Five years ago:
Under intense pressure from the Obama administration and Congress, the head of bailed-out insurance giant AIG, Edward Liddy, told Congress that some of the firm's executives had begun returning all or part of bonuses totaling $165 million. Tony-winning actress Natasha Richardson, 45, died at a New York hospital two days after suffering a head injury while skiing in Canada.
One year ago:
A plan to seize up to 10 percent of savings accounts in Cyprus to help pay for a massive financial bailout was met with fury. (That proposal was rejected by the Cypriot parliament; authorities ended up seizing large portions of uninsured savings in the country's two largest banks and imposing capital controls.) A mortar shell explosion killed seven Marines from Camp Lejeune and injured eight other people during mountain warfare training at Hawthorne Army Depot in Nevada.
Composer John Kander is 87. Country singer Charley Pride is 80. Nobel peace laureate and former South African president F.W. de Klerk is 78. Country singer Margie Bowes is 73. Actor Kevin Dobson is 71. Actor Brad Dourif is 64. Jazz musician Bill Frisell is 63. Singer Irene Cara is 55. Movie writer-director Luc Besson is 55. Actor Geoffrey Owens is 53. Actor Thomas Ian Griffith is 52. Singer-songwriter James McMurtry is 52. Singer-actress Vanessa L. Williams is 51. Olympic gold medal speedskater Bonnie Blair is 50. Country musician Scott Saunders (Sons of the Desert) is 50. Actor David Cubitt is 49. Rock musician Jerry Cantrell (Alice in Chains) is 48. Rock singer-musician Miki Berenyi is 47. Actor Michael Bergin is 45. Rapper-actress-talk show host Queen Latifah is 44. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus is 42. Actor-comedian Dane Cook is 42. Country singer Philip Sweet (Little Big Town) is 40. Rock musician Stuart Zender is 40. Singers Evan and Jaron Lowenstein are 40. Actress-singer-dancer Sutton Foster is 39. Singer Devin Lima (LFO) is 37. Rock singer Adam Levine (Maroon 5) is 35. Rock musician Daren Taylor (Airborne Toxic Event) is 34. Olympic gold medal figure skater Alexei Yagudin is 34. Actor Adam Pally is 32. Actress-dancer Julia Goldani Telles is 19.
Thought for Today:
: "I take a simple view of living. It is keep your eyes open and get on with it." - Laurence Olivier, British actor (1907-1989).