A Blast from the Past

By United Press International  |  April 16, 2003 at 3:00 AM
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Today is April 16.

For a real blast from the past, look back to this day in 1947 in the Galveston Bay port of Texas City. A fire aboard the French freighter Grandcamp ignited ammonium nitrate and other volatile materials in the ship's hold, causing a massive explosion that destroyed much of the city and claimed nearly 600 lives.

It was on this date in 1862 that Congress abolished slavery in the District of Columbia. $1 million was appropriated to compensate the owners of freed slaves, and $100,000 was set aside for those slaves who wished to emigrate to Haiti, Liberia or any other country outside of the United States.

Apollo-16 blasted off for the moon with three American astronauts aboard on this date in 1972. The 11-day mission -- the second-to-last U.S. moon mission -- included 71 hours of exploration of the lunar surface.

It was the end of an era. On this date in 1999, "The Great One," Wayne Gretzky, 38, announced his retirement after 21 seasons of playing professional hockey. His last game with the New York Rangers was April 18. Gretzky held or shared 61 National Hockey League records and his claim to fame was leading the Edmondton Oilers to four Stanley Cup championships.

And the German band the Scorpions opened a string of 10 concerts in Leningrad and in Moscow on this date in 1988, becoming the first major hard rock group to play the Soviet Union.

We now return you to the present, already in progress.

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