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An engraving on the front edge of a bench in the memorial shows the wave form of a heartbeat that starts at 7:29 p.m. when the fire at the plant was reported, and ends in a flat line 22 minutes later, when the plant exploded. (Photo by Christy Soto)

Good morning, it’s Wednesday, April 17, the 107th day of 2019. There are 258 days left in the year. We’ll start the day in the upper 60s with clouds and a chance of thunderstorms and drizzle and we’re expecting highs this afternoon in the upper 70s with a chance of thunderstorms, some of which could be severe. Thunderstorms are likely tonight and some may be severe. Temperatures will fall to around 60 overnight.

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On April 17, 2013—six years ago today--a powerful explosion at West Fertilizer, Co. left 15 dead, 12 of them first responders, and injured about 200 others. The fire at the fertilizer plant started at 7:29 p.m. on April 17, 2013. West firefighters were dispatched to the plant at 7:32 p.m., arrived at 7:38 p.m. and requested assistance from other departments at 7:41 p.m. The plant exploded at 7:51 p.m. As much as 64 tons of ammonium nitrate was stored in the building, 28 to 34 tons of which exploded. An additional 20 to 30 tons in the building and another 100 tons in a nearby rail car did not explode. The blast affected a 37-block area and left a crater 90 feet wide and 12 feet deep. It damaged or destroyed hundreds of homes and buildings including a nursing home, a two-story apartment building and three of West's schools. A memorial to those who died in the explosion was dedicated last weekend.

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Today's Highlight in History:
On April 17, 1972, the Boston Marathon allowed women to compete for the first time; Nina Kuscsik was the first officially recognized women's champion, with a time of 3:10:26.

On This Date:
In 1492, a contract was signed by Christopher Columbus and a representative of Spain's King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, giving Columbus a commission to seek a westward ocean passage to Asia.
In 1521, Martin Luther went before the Diet of Worms to face charges stemming from his religious writings. (Luther was later declared an outlaw by Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.)
In 1861, the Virginia State Convention voted to secede from the Union.
In 1924, the motion picture studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer was founded, the result of a merger of Metro Pictures, Goldwyn Pictures and the Louis B. Mayer Co.
In 1961, some 1,500 CIA-trained Cuban exiles launched the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in an attempt to topple Fidel Castro, whose forces crushed the incursion by the third day.
In 1964, Geraldine "Jerrie" Mock became the first woman to complete a solo airplane trip around the world as she returned to Columbus, Ohio, after 29 1/2 days in her Cessna 180. Ford Motor Co. unveiled the Mustang at the New York World's Fair. The first game was played at New York's Shea Stadium; the Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the Mets, 4-3.
In 1969, a jury in Los Angeles convicted Sirhan Sirhan of assassinating Sen. Robert F. Kennedy.
In 1970, Apollo 13 astronauts James A. Lovell, Fred W. Haise and Jack Swigert splashed down safely in the Pacific, four days after a ruptured oxygen tank crippled their spacecraft while en route to the moon.
In 1973, Federal Express (later FedEx) began operations as 14 planes carrying 186 packages took off from Memphis International Airport, bound for 25 U.S. cities.
In 1986, at London's Heathrow Airport, a bomb was discovered in the bag of Anne-Marie Murphy, a pregnant Irishwoman about to board an El Al jetliner to Israel; she'd been tricked into carrying the bomb by her Jordanian fiancé, Nezar Hindawi. The bodies of kidnapped American Peter Kilburn and Britons Philip Padfield and Leigh Douglas were found near Beirut; they had been slain in apparent retaliation for the U.S. raid on Libya.
In 1991, the Dow Jones industrial average closed above 3,000 for the first time, ending the day at 3,004.46, up 17.58.
In 1993, a federal jury in Los Angeles convicted two former police officers of violating the civil rights of beaten motorist Rodney King; two other officers were acquitted. Turkish President Turgut Ozal died at age 66.

Ten years ago:
A day after U.N. inspectors left North Korea, U.S. experts monitoring the communist country's nuclear program also departed after Pyongyang expelled them and threatened to restart its reactor in anger over U.N. criticism of its recent rocket launch. Richard Phillips, the cargo ship captain rescued by Navy snipers from the clutches of Somali pirates, made a triumphant return to his home state of Vermont, insisting, "I'm not a hero, the military is."

Five years ago:
Ukraine and Russia agreed on a tentative halt to violence and to calm tensions along their shared border after more than a month of Cold-War style military posturing triggered by Moscow's annexation of Crimea. Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 87, died in Mexico City.

One year ago:
Barbara Bush, who was both a first lady and the mother of a president, died in Houston at the age of 92; she was survived by her husband, George H.W. Bush, with whom she had the longest marriage of any presidential couple in American history - a marriage of more than 73 years. A Southwest Airlines jet made an emergency landing in Philadelphia after the jet apparently blew an engine, got hit by debris and lost a window; a woman sitting near the window was pulled partially out of the plane and later died. Americans were given an extra day to file their taxes after key elements of the IRS website crashed on deadline day.

Today's Birthdays:
Actor David Bradley is 77. Composer-musician Jan Hammer is 71. Actress Olivia Hussey is 68. Actor Clarke Peters is 67. Rapper Afrika Bambaataa is 62. Actor Sean Bean is 60. Former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason is 58. Actor Joel Murray is 57. Rock singer Maynard James Keenan is 55. Actress Lela Rochon is 55. Actor William Mapother is 54. Actress Leslie Bega is 52. Actor Henry Ian Cusick is 52. Actress Kimberly Elise is 52. Singer Liz Phair is 52. Director/producer Adam McKay is 51. Rapper-actor Redman is 49. Actress Jennifer Garner is 47. Country musician Craig Anderson is 46. Singer Victoria Adams Beckham is 45. Actress-singer Lindsay Korman is 41. Actor Tate Ellington is 40. Actor Nicholas D'Agosto is 39. Actor Charlie Hofheimer is 38. Actress Rooney Mara is 34. Actress Jacqueline MacInnes Wood is 32. Actor Paulie Litt is 24. Actress Dee Dee Davis is 23.

Thought for Today:
"I think America is richer in intelligence than any other country in the world; and that its intelligence is more scattered than in any country of the world." - Will Durant, American historian (1885-1981).