10 July 2012

Turns out, April really IS the cruelest month.

Adolph Hitler as a baby.
I can't remember when I first learned that I shared Adolf Hitler's birthday. My birthday always seemed so special to me because . . . well, because it was in April and it had a 20 in it. I thought that was a pretty nifty month and number.

But yes, as I found out, my birthday was Hitler's birthday. That tarnished it for me.

As I went through life, it would sometimes come up. I was always a little wary of the person who, upon learning that my birthday was April 20, said, "Isn't that Hitler's birthday, too?" Um, yes, yes it is . . . Person Who Knows Hitler's Birthday.

Fidel Castro at the time
of the Bay of Pigs Invasion.
When I was in elementary school, my dad told me one day that April 20, 1961, was the failure of the Bay of Pigs Invasion. Oh, okay, Dad. I didn't really know what that was, but it had failure, pigs, and invasion in it. Didn't sound good. . . .

Kennedy and Eisenhower
as the invasion fell apart.

Waiting them out was taking too long?

In 1993, the Branch Davidian Compound in Waco, TX, was destroyed over April 19–20. When the ashes settled, 83 Branch Davidians (including 20 children) and four ATF agents were dead.

People were outraged that the government had let it get so out of control that none of these people could be rescued. It was seen as an ill-advised and brutal raid on our own citizens.

That event triggered an unprecedented build-up of anti-government militia movements in the U.S.

For my birthday in 1995, I met some friends at a movie. Someone walked up and said, "There was a bombing in Oklahoma City. They blew up a federal building—at least a hundred people are dead!"

That became 163 people—19 of them under the age of six—and the largest mass terrorist killing in the U.S. before September 11.

The person directly responsible was borne of the post-Waco militia movement. He explicitly connected his heinous act to the anniversary of the siege at Waco. The concept of the "domestic terrorist" came into the zeitgeist.

In 1999, I had a baby boy on March 11. So in April, on my 40th birthday, I was lovingly breastfeeding my one-month-old. I turned on the TV—and saw the shootings at Columbine going down. Children, really, shooting other children. I rocked the baby in front of the television all day long, and wept.

It was suggested later that the shooters had chosen the date because it was Hitler's birthday.

We watched this unfold in real-time. My god, my god.

By this point, I had gotten the drift. I'm not superstitious, but for practical reasons I stopped checking the news until after I'd celebrated my birthday. There was a lull during that time anyway, although several bombing and other terroristic plots were foiled on the date. But who recalls those?

In 2010, I mentioned to a friend that nothing terrible had happened on my birthday, and she pointed out that on April 20 of that year, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded. It was the second-worst environmental disaster in history, after the Dust Bowl.

Now, I don't mean to imply—nor do I believe—that there is meaning in my birthday being the date of these disastrous events. That would be a bit solipsistic.

It's all a little strange, though. I still put headline news on hold every April 20. Even though, again, I'm not in the least superstitious.

Rabbits, rabbits.


  1. Well, this year April 20th was the 100th birthday of Fenway Park.

    Teeny, tiny redemption?

  2. For many, perhaps. Alas, for me, when you said Fenway Park, I was thinking, is that where they play softball?