The Thing About Today – July 21

July 21, 2020
Day 203 of 366


July 21st is the 203rd day of the year. It is Liberation Day in Guam.

On December 8, 1941, hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Guam was captured by the Japanese. They occupied the island for two and a half years, during which Guamanians were subjected to forced labor, incarceration, torture, and execution. American forces recaptured the island on July 21, 1944, and Liberation Day commemorates that victory.


In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National Junk Food Day and National Be Someone Day.


Historical items of note:

  • In 365, the “365 Crete earthquake” struck the Greek island of Crete with a maximum Mercalli intensity of XI (measured as Extreme). It caused a destructive tsunami that devastated the coasts of Libya and Egypt, especially Alexandria. The event killed thousands.
  • In 1620, French astronomer Jean Picard was born. He is principally notable for his accurate measure of the size of the Earth, based on a careful survey of one degree of latitude along the Paris Meridian. Sadly, he was not the inspiration for Star Trek captain, Jean-Luc Picard. That distinction belongs to one or both of the twin brothers Auguste Piccard and Jean Piccard, both of whom were 20th-century Swiss scientists.
  • In 1865, Wild Bill Hickok shot and killed Davis Tutt in the market square of Springfield, Missouri. This is regarded as the first western showdown.
  • In 1873, Jesse James and the James–Younger Gang pulled off the first successful train robbery in the American Old West. It took place in Adair, Iowa.
  • In 1877, after rioting by Baltimore and Ohio Railroad workers and the deaths of nine rail workers at the hands of the Maryland militia, workers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, staged a sympathy strike. It was met by – you guessed it – an assault by the state militia.
  • In 1899, novelist, short story writer, journalist, and Nobel Prize laureate Ernest Hemingway was born.
  • In 1924, actor and screenwriter Don Knotts was born.
  • In 1925, high school biology teacher John T. Scopes was found guilty in Dayton, Tennessee, of teaching evolution in class and fined $100.
  • In 1943, actor Edward Herrmann was born. He was quite prolific in his 43 years of acting, but I know him best as the family patriarch from Gilmore Girls.
  • In 1948, cartoonist Garry Trudeau was born.
  • In 1951, actor, singer, comedian, and producer Robin Williams was born.
  • In 1961, Gus Grissom piloted the Liberty Bell 7 and became the second American to go into space. The Mercury-Redstone 4 flight was suborbital.
  • In 1969, at 02:56 UTC, astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first person to walk on the Moon.
  • In 1979, Jay Silverheels, a Mohawk actor, became the first Native American to have a star commemorated in the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
  • In 1983, the world’s lowest temperature in an inhabited location was recorded at Vostok Station, Antarctica. It was a balmy -89.2°C (-128.6°F).
  • In 1989, actress Juno Temple was born.
  • In 2011, NASA’s Space Shuttle program ended with the landing of Space Shuttle Atlantis on mission STS-135 (launched on July 8th) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
  • In 2012, Erden Eruç completed the first solo human-powered circumnavigation of the world.
  • In 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy premiered. It’s like Farscape in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and I adore it.


I also don’t focus on notable deaths that often, but…

On this date in 2018, Alene Duerk died at the age of 98. She was the first female admiral in the United States Navy, pinning on her stars in 1972. She served from 1943 to 1975 with a small break during which she earned her Bachelor of Science in Ward Management and Teaching, Medical and Surgical Nursing from Case Western Reserve University.

During her career, she earned the Legion of Merit, the Naval Reserve Medal, the American Campaign Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal (with bronze star), the World War II Victor Medal, the Navy Occupation Service Medal (with Asia clasp), and the National Defense Service Medal (with bronze star).


July 21st is Racial Harmony Day in Singapore, a day to commemorate the country’s diversity.

First launched in 1997 by the Ministry of Education in schools, the event commemorates the 1964 Race Riots which took place on July 21, 1964, when Singapore was still part of Malaysia. Twenty-two people lost their lives and hundreds were severely injured during the riots, and it was part of the numerous other communal riots and incidents throughout the ’50s and ’60s leading up to and following Singapore’s independence in August 1965. The 1964 riots are considered to be the worst in the country’s postwar history.

Schools are encouraged to recite a Declaration of Religious Harmony during the celebrations. In the week of July 21, representatives from the Inter-Religious Harmony Circle (IRHC) comprising various religious groups also get together to pledge their support and to promote the Declaration, which affirms the importance of, and the commitment of Singaporeans towards, religious harmony. It is a basis for Singaporeans to reflect on religious harmony, and what should be done to achieve it.

We, the people in Singapore, declare that religious harmony is vital for peace, progress, and prosperity in our multi-racial and multi-religious Nation.

We resolve to strengthen religious harmony through mutual tolerance, confidence, respect, and understanding.

We shall always

Recognise the secular nature of our State,
Promote cohesion within our society,
Respect each other’s freedom of religion,
Grow our common space while respecting our diversity,
Foster inter-religious communications,
and thereby ensure that religion will not be abused to create conflict and disharmony in Singapore.


The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.



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