Yet, today — April 19 — stands out in our time as a particularly dark occasion.
On April 19, 1993, more than 80 members of the Branch Davidian cult under the sway of messianic madman David Koresh lost their lives in a fire that ended an 81-day siege at the hands of law enforcement.
Two years later — April 19, 1995 — terrorists set off a bomb near the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Okla. The death toll reached 168, included 19 children who, had they lived, would be in their late teens and early 20s today.
And 13 years ago — April 19, 1999 — Columbine (Colo.) High School students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold completed final preparations for the next day’s shooting spree, one that left 12 students and one teacher from their school dead.
Each of these sad tales is distinct. The Branch Davidian tragedy was brought on by a cult leader stubbornly refusing to peaceably comply with legal authorities, who — it must be acknowledged — botched the initial raid on the central Texas compound. The extremists who plotted the OKC bombing sought to wound what they saw as a tyrannical federal government, language that can still be heard today on conservative hate radio and the Internet. The high school students at Columbine showed how easy it is for disturbed teens to get their hands on deadly firearms.
Sadly, this pattern of school shootings has not slowed since 1999, as victims at Virginia Tech, suburban Cleveland and Oakland, to cite three other high-profile examples, can attest.
Today we pause and recall the lives of the innocents cut short in these events: the Branch Davidians who were powerless to exit the clutches of a cult leader (as well as the four ATF agents who died in the late-February 1993 raid), the scores of people in a federal building going about their business on a Wednesday morning, and the high school students attending classes in a supposedly safe Colorado suburb.