a composite image showing a variety of disasters, including the sinking of the Titanic and the Oklahoma City bombing
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The Third Week of April Is a Very Scary Time for America

The seven day period that starts on April 15 has been the setting for more than its share of America's worst tragedies.
April 13, 2017, 8:45pm

With a lot happening in the news right now, I feel like it's my duty to warn you about something: The third week in April is about to start, and that's when horrible shit happens to America.

I'm not the first person to notice this. Joel Achenbach of The Washington Post wrote in 2013, "It seems that the third week in April has become our time of calamity."

To be clear, when I say "third week," I'm referring to the third seven-day period, beginning with the 15th, through the 21st. The period covers just under two percent of the year in sheer time, but after I spent some time looking into it, it became clear that way more than two percent of America's worst catastrophes fall in this little time window.

Here are 14 horrors and horror-adjacent events from past third weeks of April:

The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake

The earthquake struck on April 18, followed by city-wide fires that lasted for several days. 3,000 people died. It was the second worst natural disaster in United States history.

The Sinking of the Titanic

It actually hit the iceberg at 11:40 PM on April 14, 1912, but all the worst stuff came after midnight on the 15th. 119 Americans were among the dead.

The Port of Texas City Explosion

On April 16, 1947, a cargo ship full of improperly-stored ammonium nitrate fertilizer exploded just off the coast of Texas, causing a chain reaction that blew up other ships and freight. The explosion killed at least 581 people, and set the stage for the very first class-action lawsuit. It was the largest industrial disaster in US history.

The Bay of Pigs Invasion

On April 17-19 of 1961, 1,500 Cuban soldiers trained by the CIA invaded Cuba in an attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro, under the assumption that the US military would provide air support. When the invasion became global news, President John F. Kennedy decided not to provide air strikes. The operation failed spectacularly, and Fidel Castro was hailed as a military hero.

The United States Embassy Bombing in Beirut

On April 18, 1983, a member of the Islamic Jihad Organization, with ties to Hezbollah, drove a car bomb up to the US embassy in Beirut and blew himself up, killing 63 people, including 17 Americans. It's considered the first time Islamists ever intentionally targeted the United States.

The Elijah, Missouri Siege

From April 16-19, 1985, the FBI surrounded the headquarters of a group of white supremacist Christian terrorists called The Covenant, The Sword, and the Arm of the Lord. The standoff ended peacefully, but the event allegedly helped inspire the Oklahoma City Bombing exactly ten years later.

The Ruby Ridge Helicopter Incident

The confrontation between a group of isolated doomsday preppers in Idaho, and some overzealous federal agents didn't turn deadly until August of 1992, but the event used as the primary justification for the standoff occurred on April 18, 1992. A helicopter working for Geraldo Rivera flew over and its crew reported hearing shots fired toward it. A later grand jury report called the accusation "grossly unfair." Ruby Ridge partly inspired the Oklahoma City Bombing.

The Branch Davidian Fire

On April 19, 1993, the 51-day siege of a compound associated with an oddball sect of Seventh-Day Adventists in Waco, Texas, concluded when the FBI attempted to raid the facility, resulting in a fire that consumed 76 people.

The Oklahoma City Bombing

On April 19, 1995, a Gulf War vet blew up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, using 7,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, killing 168. The terrorist intentionally staged the bombing two years to the day after The Branch Davidian Massacre. It was the deadliest act of terrorism in US history until 9/11. It's still the deadliest act of domestic terrorism.

The Columbine Massacre

On April 20, 1999, 15 people died in the worst high school shooting in US history.

The Virginia Tech Shooting

On April 16, 2007, 33 people died in the second-deadliest single-shooter incident in US history. The perpetrator referred to the Columbine High school shooters as "martyrs."

The BP Oil Spill

This event is best remembered for the expanding ecological catastrophe that seemed like it would never end, but an explosion on April 20, 2010 set the oil spill in motion. It resulted in the deaths of 11 workers, and, yes, the worst environmental disaster in US history.

The Boston Bombing

The Boston Marathon Bombing on April 15, 2013 killed three people, and set in motion events that would claim three more lives by the end of the week.

The 2013 Texas Fertilizer Plant Explosion

In the aforementioned article for The Washington Post, Joel Achenbach pointed out that on April 17, 2013, 15 people died in an ammonium nitrate fertilizer factory explosion in Texas, 66 years and one day after the Port of Texas City Explosion, but it was overshadowed by the madness going on in Boston. The 2013 incident was sparked by an intentional act of arson.

I can't claim there's anything special about this part of the year that makes people violent. Some of the events—the two school shootings for instance—appear to have fed into each other. And it's worth mentioning that Christians commemorate an act of violence on Good Friday, and that Jews do the same on Passover. Those holidays fall around the third week of April occasionally—though certainly not always.

It's also not trivial that April 17 (or sometimes the third Monday in April) is a little-known holiday called Patriots Day, and it commemorates the start of the Revolutionary War on April 19, 1775. CNN noted in 2013 that militia groups in the US—groups associated with no less than four of the tragedies mentioned above—seem to have noticed the Patriots Day connection. Oh, and April 20 was Hitler's birthday.

Anyway, I don't know what the deal is with this week. It's all probably a coincidence, but I'm not taking any chances. Beware the third week of April, everybody, and stay the fuck home.

Correction: April's "Ides" was the 13th according to the Romans, not the 15th, as it was in the case of March (as in: "Beware the Ides of March"), so mentions of April's "Ides" have been removed. An earlier version of this article also stated that the Titanic sank in 1911. It actually sank in 1912. We regret these errors.

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