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Community History Archives: This Week in History- June 10th – June 16th

School may be out for the summer, but history happens outside of the classroom every week. This week in the past brought us lots of entrances and departures. Between Italian Troops entering a war, American troops evacuating a base, a new US Territory being established, and one of the FBI’s most wanted escaping prison, this week is full of movement! Join me as we adventure around the past and follow the movements of those who came before us. As always, I will provide a weekly search tip to help you better navigate the thousands of pages available through the Community History Archives.

(2000s – Present) A Night Turned Deadly: Pulse Nightclub Shooting, 2016

The shooting that occurred at the Pulse Nightclub on June 12th, 2016, was one of the deadliest mass shootings. The Pulse Nightclub was an LGBTQ+ club located in Orlando, Florida. That weekend, they were hosting “Latin Night” at the club, and because of this, almost 90% of the victims in the shooting were Hispanic.

The night of June 11th and into the early morning of June 12th, 2016, the Pulse Nightclub was packed with people for their Latin-themed night. Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old man, entered the club just after 2 AM as the last call happened in the club. As he began to open fire on the patrons of the club, many of them weren’t immediately aware of what was going on, believing that the gunshots were part of the music or just unable to hear them completely. Mass panic took over the crowd as people pushed to leave the club.

Mateen eventually barricaded himself inside one of the bathrooms of the club, where he held those who were hiding in the room hostage. He made various claims, including that he had bombs and snipers placed around the building. He also made statements about his reasoning for the shooting, citing US Intervention in Iraq as his motive. He was a self-proclaimed member of the Islamic State (IS) and claimed to be taking action against the US bombings in Iraq, following a bomb strike that killed an IS commander.

The shooting was responded to by police, and later SWAT teams who dispatched hostage negotiations with Mateen and those he was holding hostages. After hours of back and forth, SWAT officers breached the building, distracted Mateen, and drew him out into the hallway where he engaged officers and was fatally shot. There were 49 individuals who died either at the club or in the hospital from injuries sustained. In addition, there were 58 patrons who were injured. To this day, the shooting was one of the deadliest terrorist attacks since the September 11th attacks.

The Moultrie Reporter described Mateen as a “homegrown terrorist” on the front page of the paper published on June 14th, 2016. They detail more of his background and reassure the public that the attack was not planned outside of the United States. They also shared a remembrance of the victims of the attack, as locals called for more preventative action.

(1980s – 2000s) Disastrous Destruction: Mount Pinatubo Erupted, 1991

A week of volcanic activity came to its climax this week in 1991. Mount Pinatubo, a volcano in the Philippines, had been showing signs of activity leading up to this week. On June 12th, 1991, the first eruption came from the volcano. Over the course of the next few days, smaller eruptions took place. Then, on June 15th, the largest eruption happened. 

Ash from the June 15th eruption went as far as 25 miles into the earth’s atmosphere, and as far as the Indian Ocean. Pyroclastic flows rushed down the mountain, filling in valleys on the range with 660 ft of volcanic matter. The eruption was so violent that the summit of the volcano collapsed. It destroyed homes and towns surrounding the volcano. 

A total of 847 people died from the eruption, and over 10,000 were left homeless. Luckily, 20,000 were evacuated and found safe, but the same is not true for their homes and villages. Not only were the surrounding areas completely destroyed, but the eruption even damaged planes that were flying over the area during the time of the eruption. The eruption of Mount Pinatubo was the second-largest volcanic eruption in the 20th century. 

On June 10th, 1991, the Daily Tribune reported that American forces had to evacuate their base near the mountain in the Philippines due to the activity. They evacuated before the real eruption began, so luckily they were able to avoid the extreme damage. However, the early activity was serious enough that they decided it was best to move thousands of troops out of the base. They were told to bring enough food, water, and clothes for three days, but the eruption ended up lasting far longer than expected and caused more damage than imagined. 

(1945 – 1980s) On the Loose: James Earl Ray Escapes Prison, 1977

James Earl Ray is one of the most infamous figures from the Civil Rights era. Ray was the perpetrator responsible for the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., and served prison time for his crimes. 

In 1977, Ray was serving time at the Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary in Petros, Tennessee, and on June 10th, he made a break for it. Working with 6 other inmates, the group created a distraction in the recreation yard which allowed them to create a makeshift ladder up one of the guard posts and escape the facility. 

The news of his escape drew a lot of attention and resulted in a three-day manhunt. Hundreds of people, including police officers and non-officers, searched the area for Ray. Eventually, officers were able to find Ray on June 13th using search dogs. Ray received an extra year on his 99-year sentence as a result. 

On June 11th, 1977, the Robinson Daily News posted about their escape. They shared that the search team believed that they were still in the brush around the prison and that they were well surrounded by helicopters and large numbers of officials. Two days later, on June 13th, the same publication shared that he had been captured with the help of two bloodhounds named Sandy and Little Red, and returned back to prison. 

(1914 – 1945) A Growing Conflict: Italy Enters WWII, 1940

Benito Mussolini had been looking for a way to expand Italy further into Europe, and in June of 1940, he found an opening. Italy had signed an agreement called the Pact of Steel with Germany back on May 22nd of 1939, which allied the two countries politically and militarily. Pressure from Adolf Hitler to join the war, alongside the pact they signed, pushed Italy in the direction of entering. 

Not only were the two countries allied, but they also shared a lot of the same ideas and goals. Both countries were looking to expand their nations in Europe and eradicate democracy. Because of the pressure from their allies, and the possibility for expansion, Mussolini joined Germany’s conquest of Europe and declared war on Great Britain and France on June 10th, 1940. 

I found a piece in the Newark Evening News published on June 10th, 1940, that printed the words “ITALY ENTERS WAR” in huge letters on the paper’s front page. The entire front page was dedicated to the story, from the moments that led to this, to America’s reaction. The paper had so many stories on the front, it was hard to pick out just one, but what stood out to me the most was the almost diss on Italy they wrote. They had a whole section dedicated to talking about how Italy suffered heavy losses in the last world war, losses that were greater than Great Britain had. It seemed to add a bit of optimism to the otherwise somber news of the growing war. 

(1824 – 1914) Happy Birthday to The Hawkeye State: Iowa Territory Established, 1838

The state of Iowa was established as a US territory on June 12, 1838, through an act of Congress. It was created from a part of the Wisconsin territory and included present-day Iowa, the eastern sides of North and South Dakota, and some parts of western Minnesota. The first capital of the territory was in Burlington, but it was later moved to Iowa City. It stayed a territory until officially gaining statehood on December 28, 1846. The capital remained in Iowa City when Iowa became a state, and did not move to Des Moines until 1857. The Old Capitol building still stands today in Iowa City and is now the heart of the University of Iowa’s campus. I get to pass by it every day on my way to class, and it is truly breathtaking!

I had a fascinating time browsing through the pages of the Iowa Capitol Reporter, which was published in Iowa City, Iowa. The Iowa City Public Library CHA had papers dating back to before the territory gained statehood. I came across an interesting article from March 23rd, 1844, which reported that a poll would be conducted among citizens of the territory to determine whether they wanted to hold a convention to discuss statehood. It’s amazing to read about people’s thoughts on becoming a state before it happened!

This is where my search tip of the week comes in. One thing I had to consider when deciding which CHA to look at was where information would have been published, not just where it happened. Because Iowa City was the capital of the territory for a long time, I looked at the pages available from the Iowa City Public Library. This was the center of the territory’s government, so it was the perfect place to find all sorts of information about the early stages of the state. 

I love that from the past, we can gain a new perspective of the present. Now every time I pass by the Old Capitol on my way to class, I know its story and can almost picture what it looked like way back before Iowa became a state. Every place has a story, and through the pages of the Community History Archives, we can learn them. Join me again next week to discover more of history’s hidden gems and timeless tales!


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