September 11


1978: Georgi Markov, a Bulgarian dissident, was assassinated in London with a specially modified umbrella that fired a metal pellet with a small cavity full of ricin into his calf.

1978: Janet Parker, a British medical photographer, died of smallpox in 1978, ten months after the disease was eradicated in the wild, when a researcher at the laboratory where Parker worked accidentally released some virus into the air of the building. Parker is the last known smallpox fatality.

2001: Islamic terrorists hijacked four commercial airliners on the East Coast and crashed two of them into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York, destroying the buildings and killing 2,819 people, including the passengers on the planes. One of the other planes crashed into the Pentagon, killing 187 people total. The fourth plane crashed in a field in Pennsylvania after the passengers overpowered the hijackers. This remains the deadliest terrorist attack in world history.


September 12


1953: Jacquelyn Bouvier married John Fitzgerald Kennedy (35th president, 1961-1963) in Newport, R.I.


September 13


1788: Congress made New York the capital of the United States.

1922: The world’s second hottest surface temperature, 136 degrees, was recorded in El Azizia, Libya.

1949: Karen Lee Anderson, 4½, of Grand Coulee, Wash., died after she fell into a boiling hot spring near Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone National Park.


September 14


1408: The last documented event in Norse Greenland took place, a Christian wedding inside Hvalsey Church at the soon-to-be abandoned Viking settlement at Hvalsey (now modern-day Qaqortoq).

1814: Francis Scott Key composed a poem called “Defence of Fort McHenry” after witnessing the massive British bombardment of Fort McHenry in Maryland during the War of 1812. The patriotic lyrics were circulated as a handbill and then published in a Baltimore newspaper on September 20 and renamed “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Set to the tune of an English drinking song called “To Anacreon in Heaven,” it became popular throughout the nation. Congress declared “The Star-Spangled Banner” the national anthem in 1931.

1974: The song “I Shot the Sheriff,” sung by Eric Clapton, reached No. 1 on the Billboard pop chart. It was written by reggae singer Bob Marley.

1982: Former Hollywood star Grace Kelly, Princess Grace of Monaco, died one day after her car plunged off a cliff near Monte Carlo. She was 52.


September 15


1857: William Howard Taft (27th president and 10th chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court) was born in Cincinnati, Ohio.

1890: Fiction crime writer Agatha Christie was born in Torquay, Devon, England. (Died 1976.)

1946: Born this day: Actor Tommy Lee Jones and movie director Oliver Stone.

1958: A commuter train plunged off a bridge into Newark Bay in New Jersey, killing 47 passengers. The accident resulted from mistakes made by the train’s crew.


September 16


1630: The settlement of Shawmut was renamed Boston.

1857: The song “Jingle Bells” by James Pierpont was copyrighted under its original title, “One Horse Open Sleigh.” (The song, now considered a Christmastime perennial, was actually written by Pierpont for Thanksgiving.)

1908: Will Durant incorporated General Motors in Flint, Mich.

1919: The American Legion received a national charter from Congress.

1920: Dan Andersson, a Swedish author, died of cyanide poisoning while staying at Hotel Hellman in Stockholm. The hotel staff had failed to clear the room after using hydrogen cyanide to kill bed bugs.


September 17


1935: Baseball player Len Koenecke was bludgeoned to death with a fire extinguisher by the crew of an aircraft he had chartered, after provoking a fight with the pilot while the plane was in the air.

1983: Vanessa Williams became the first black Miss America.