February 3, 2020
Day 34 of 366
February 3rd is the thirty-fourth day of the year. It is Setsubun in Japan, the day before the beginning of spring.
In the United States, it is “celebrated” as National Carrot Cake Day, National Missing Persons Day, National Women Physicians Day, and National Football Hangover Day. That last one is typically commemorated on the day after the “Big Game”. You know, the “Superb Owl.” The football championship event that was held yesterday at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.
Don’t sue me, National Football League. </sarcasm>
Historical items of note:
- In 1690, the colony of Massachusetts issued the first paper money in the Americas.
- In 1783, Spain recognized the independence of the United States during the American Revolutionary War.
- In 1809, German pianist, composer, and conductor Felix Mendelssohn was born.
- In 1870, the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified, guaranteeing voting rights to male citizens regardless of race.
- In 1894, American painter and illustrator Norman Rockwell was born.
- In 1913, the Sixteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified, authorizing the Federal government to impose and collect an income tax.
- In 1917, during World War I, the United States broke off diplomatic relations with Germany. This was two days after Germany declared a new policy of unrestricted submarine warfare.
- In 1938, actor Victor Buono was born. He played King Tut on the 1966 Batman television series.
- In 1956, actor and comedian Nathan Lane was born.
- In 1961, the United States Air Force began Operation Looking Glass. For the next thirty years, a “Doomsday Plane” was always in the air with the capability of taking direct control of the United States’ bombers and missiles if the Strategic Air Command command post was lost.
- In 1965, actress and producer Maura Tierney was born.
- In 1966, the Soviet Union’s unmanned Luna 9 vehicle became the first spacecraft to make a soft landing on the Moon. It was also the first spacecraft to take pictures from the surface of the Moon.
- In 1970, actor and screenwriter Warwick Davis was born. He’s appeared in Willow and pretty much every Star Wars film since 1983.
- In 1994, Sergei Krikalev became the first Russian cosmonaut to fly aboard the Space Shuttle as mission STS-60 (Discovery) was launched.
- In 1995, Eileen Collins became the first woman to pilot the Space Shuttle as mission STS-63 (Discovery) was launched.
Today is commemorated as The Day the Music Died.
In 1959, Buddy Holly and his band – consisting of Waylon Jennings, Tommy Allsup, and Carl Bunch – were on the “Winter Dance Party” tour in the American Midwest. They were joined by rising stars Ritchie Valens, J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, and Dion and the Belmonts.
The long travel stretches between venues was a killer for the artists, including cases of flu and frostbite on the cold and uncomfortable tour buses. After their performance at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, Buddy Holly decided to charter a plane for the next leg of their journey. As fate played out, Richardson (afflicted with the flu) took Jennings’s seat on the plane and Valens won his seat after beating Allsup in a coin toss.
Soon after takeoff, radio contact was lost with the plane. When the plane did not reach Moorhead, Minnesota, it was reported missing. It was eventually found in a cornfield six miles northwest of the departure airport. The investigation revealed that poor weather conditions and pilot error contributed to the accident.
Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, and pilot Roger Peterson were killed in the crash.
Buddy Holly’s wife, María Elena, learned of her husband’s death via a television news report. They had been married for only six months, and she suffered a miscarriage shortly afterward. This led to the policy of not disclosing victims’ names until family members had been notified.
Fans make pilgrimages to Clear Lake, Iowa every year to pay their respects. An annual memorial concert is also held at the Surf Ballroom.
In 1971, Don McLean released his hit single “American Pie”, which was written in the late 1960s. It paid tribute to the artists and pilot, commemorated the loss of innocence of the early rock and roll generation, and served to exorcise his long-running grief over the accident.
The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.
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