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By George, We Fixed It.
The Maundy Monday Newsletter - This Week in History February 27 - March 5.
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Ohio has been in the news a lot this month. Just before 9:00 p.m. on Friday, February 3, operators of a Norfolk Southern train derailed near East Palestine, Ohio, dumping hazardous chemicals into the ground, air, and water systems of the village, which sits along the border of Pennsylvania.
The 32N train was 149 cars and 9,000 feet long. It was driven by a three-person crew, almost 50 cars per person, even in new math. A wheel bearing in the 23rd car overheated, which triggered the alarm system, which triggered the conductor to stop the train, but the damage had been done. Thirty-eight cars derailed, and 11 contained toxic chemicals. If you saw the explosion, it looked like a war scene.
This disaster will undoubtedly put a damper on the 220th anniversary of the Buckeye State entering the union.
Ohio officially became a state on March 1, 1803. However, the people in Ohio who were alive on March 1, 1803, had thought they had been a state since February 19, after President Jefferson signed off on their constitution, borders, and Wendy’s franchises.
In 1953, when getting ready to celebrate its 150 birthday, someone realized Congress hadn’t passed anything that formally admitted the state. I’m not sure who is in charge of the paperwork on this stuff, but they were terrible at their job.
Congressman George Bender of Cleveland stepped up and sponsored a bill to retroactively declare the state’s birthday to the date when the Ohio General Assembly first met. It was passed and sent back to Washington, DC, and just like that, March 1, 1803, it is!
(By the way, George was featured in a newsreel a year earlier, addressing thousands of people who had just watched Vice President Nixon’s Checker’s Speech, asking them how much they loved old Dick. The crowd cheered, and I wonder if anyone retroactively wished they hadn’t.)
Ohio is known as the Mother of Presidents, giving the country Grant, Hayes, Garfield, Harrison, McKinley, Taft, Harding, and Henry Harrison. It’s a spot-on moniker. Only a Mother could love this list.
Okay, let's highlight what else happened this week. Here's what I got:
Fred Rogers died on February 27, 2003. The best person to have ever lived won the Presidential Medal of Freedom 18 years before Rush Limbaugh somehow did and the Lifetime Achievement Award. He died of stomach cancer at the age of 74.
The final episode of M.A.S.H. aired on February 28, 1983. Goodbye, Farewell, Amen was viewed by over 120 million, making it the largest sitcom audience ever. If we can make jokes during the Korean War, we can make jokes about anything.
The Waco Siege began on February 28, 1993. Law enforcement executed a search warrant on a religious cult Branch Davidians, for suspected weapons violations. The first day saw four Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms agents killed, along with six Branch Davidians. The siege lasted 51 days and ended in a raid that saw the Mount Carmel Center burn, resulting in even more death.
I was born and raised in Ohio and claim all Cleveland professional sports teams. My wife was born there. Like almost everyone else, we moved.
A recent report stated that between 2000 to 2020, Ohio saw significant decreases in people under the age of 54. Ohio is getting older, grumpier, and less productive. Honestly, it looks like if I moved back, I’d fit in.
Happy birthday to all of the OKH subscribers from Ohio. Don’t drink the water.
I’m working on my first Ask Me Anything piece, which I hope to have out this Friday. Until then, have a great week.