In 1865 – (152 years ago) – President Abraham Lincoln died in a first-floor bedroom at a boarding house across the street from Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC, where he had been shot in the head by the actor John Wilkes Booth the previous evening. Even before moving Lincoln out of the theater, doctors on the scene had already reached the conclusion that the bullet wound in his skull was mortal, and that he would surely die. The bed in the boarding house was too short to accommodate Lincoln’s tall frame, so they had to lay him on it diagonally. Lincoln died in a room full of people; he was surrounded by doctors and government officials. His twenty-six-year-old assassin, a Confederate sympathizer who had called slavery an important institution that should be preserved, had escaped the scene and was still at large.
In 1912 – (105 years ago) – more than 1,500 people died when the RMS Titanic, a great passenger liner making its maiden voyage, sank in the North Atlantic about two hours after hitting an iceberg. The Titanic had been hyped as the largest and most luxurious ship in the world, and though it boasted some of the most advanced safety features of its time, it only carried enough lifeboats for half the number of people on board. About 700 passengers survived, but experts agree that many more could have been saved if some of the lifeboats had not been launched half empty, and if the ship’s crew had been properly trained in their use. Of the rich people traveling in first class, near the top of the ship, 62 percent survived. Of the less affluent passengers down in third-class steerage, only 37 percent made it out alive.
In 1989 – (28 years ago) – a total of 96 people were killed and 776 injured in a human crush at the Hillsborough soccer stadium in Sheffield, England. It was the FA Cup semifinal between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest, and as fans of the Liverpool side herded into a large standing-room-only pen to watch the action, they were unaware that the crowd inside had already reached the pen’s capacity. As fans inside the pen were crushed and became piled on top of each other, some tried desperately to crawl out of the pen, over the fence, and onto the soccer field. As the situation grew more dangerous, referees stopped the game after just five minutes of playing time. In the aftermath of the disaster, several traumatized survivors committed suicide. An initial coroner’s inquest later ruled that the deaths at the scene had been accidental, but in 2016 a second inquest concluded that the soccer fans had died due to unlawful gross negligence by crowd-control personnel, police, and ambulance services.
Rotten History is written by Renaldo Migaldi