The Empire State Building on fire and the damage caused by the B-25 bomber.
WHILE EVERYONE knows about the terrorist-hijacked airplanes that destroyed the Twin Towers in 2011, few are aware that a U.S. aircraft struck New York’s Empire State Building, the world’s tallest structure at the time, 56 years earlier.
On the morning of July 28, 1945, a B-25 Mitchell bomber, lost in the New York fog, slammed into the north side of the Empire State Building. Seventeen-year-old Donald Maloney witnessed the accident and raced into a nearby drugstore, demanding morphine, hypodermic needles, and other medical supplies. He then scaled 79 flights of stairs to where the aircraft had ripped into the building.
Because the accident occurred on a Saturday, the building was sparsely populated. Still, 14 people died, and it would have been 15 if not for Maloney, a former hospital apprentice in the U.S. Coast Guard. He lowered himself into a crushed elevator in order to extricate and treat an unconscious woman, who was rushed to a nearby hospital. She would recover — thanks to Maloney.
Another seventeen year old, Herbert Fabian, was praised for taking over an abandoned elevator and rescuing 20 people trapped between the 30th and 40th floors.
ON THIS DATE in 1973, eighteen-year-old David Clyde made his much-hyped debut for the Texas Rangers, pitching five innings in a 4-3 win over the Minnesota Twins witnessed by 35,698 customers — the Rangers’ biggest crowd of the season.
At Houston’s Westchester High School, the left-handed Clyde had thrown five no-hitters and two perfect games. The Rangers made him the first overall choice in the 1973 draft and signed him to a $65,000 bonus, a huge stack of change at the time. Team owner Bob Short, knowing huge home crowds would gather to see the kid pitch, planned to give Clyde two starts, and then send him to the minors.
Short’s plan changed after Clyde pitched effectively in his first two starts and drew big crowds for the woebegone Rangers, who would finish 57-105. The teenage rookie stayed in the big leagues and finished the year with a 4-8 record and a 5.01 earned run average.
Clyde never got much better. After two ineffective seasons with the Rangers and several years in the minors, he was traded to the Cleveland Indians, He damaged his rotator cuff while pitching for Cleveland in 1979 and was out of baseball by age twenty-six. His career record: 18-33 with a 4.63 ERA.
“I’d have to say that David Clyde was one of the best young left-handed pitchers I’ve ever seen,” Whitey Herzog, Clyde’s first big-league manager, told The New York Times’ Dave Anderson in 2003. “He was really mishandled. He never had the advantage of going to the minors and pitching against kids his own age. And he was really a good kid himself. It was a tragedy.’”
FOLLOWING HER FATHER’S death on July 26, 1762, nineteen-year-old Rafaela Herrera took command of a Nicaraguan river fortress under attack from 50 British ships and emerged as a national heroine.
Facing seemingly hopeless odds, a Spanish sergeant was prepared to hand over the Fortress of the Immaculate Conception to the attackers when the young woman stopped him. According to one account, she fired the first cannon shot and killed an enemy commander with her third shot.
With 2,000 men aboard their ships, the British thought nothing of a few cannon blasts. The enemy fired away at the fortress, located on the San Juan River, throughout the day and into the night. Herrera finally halted the onslaught by ordering her men to soak sheets in alcohol, place them on large branches, and set them on fire upriver from the British. Floating down the river, the flaming branches illuminated the enemy ships and discouraged the British from continuing their nighttime assault.
After six (some say nine) days, the British ships sailed away. Nineteen years after her defense of the fort, the Spanish government awarded Herrera a lifetime pension as a reward for her valor.
Linda Morgan on a stretcher after the Andrea Doria sinking.
ON THIS DATE in 1956, fourteen-year-old Linda Morgan survived the nighttime sinking of the Andrea Doria and became known as the “Miracle Girl.”
Morgan was sleeping in her cabin when the SS Andrea Doria collided with the MS Stockholm off the coast of Massachusetts. The Stockholm’s bow sliced through the Andrew Doria and somehow sent Morgan flying — onto the Stockholm, where she broke an arm but was otherwise unharmed.
The Andrea Doria sunk and 52 of its passengers would die, including Morgan’s stepfather and half-sister (her mother suffered serious injuries). Five Stockholm passengers were killed in the collision.
Newspapers called Morgan the “Miracle Girl,” but she never understood the fuss. “I was once given a life-saving award, but I didn’t save any lives,” she told the Baltimore Sun in 1997. “I just survived. I couldn’t take credit for anything.”
THE FIRST GLIMPSE of the Mormon Promised Land looked none too promising to some of the 148 travelers who arrived at the valley of the Great Salt Lake on July 24, 1847. “Weak and weary as I am, I would rather go 1,000 miles farther than stay in such a forsaken place as this,” said Harriet Young, thirty-three, one of Mormon leader Brigham Young’s many wives. Nineteen-year-old Clara Young (also called Clarissa), Harriet’s daughter and another of Brigham Young’s wives, saw the bare-looking valley and concluded, “Things do not look dreary to me … There aren’t any trees, but they can be planted.”
Mormons drove wagons down Emigration Canyon into the Salt Lake Valley.
Clara Young’s can-do attitude typified the Mormon spirit after the 1,300-mile journey from Nauvoo, Illinois. One of three women, 143 men, and two children on the historic trip, she was happy to settle where members of her Christian sect could live and worship in peace after suffering persecution in Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois, where Mormon founder Joseph Smith had been murdered.
Although they follow most tenets of Christianity, Mormons adhere to other sacred texts as well as the Bible, and originally practiced polygamy. The differences in their ways of worship made them a target of fierce bigotry in the early days of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Within five years of the first arrival in Salt Lake, 16,000 Mormons had settled in the valley, and by 1869 the population exceeded 80,000. In 1890 the church outlawed polygamy, and in 1896 the territory of Utah entered the Union as the 45th state.
ON THIS DATE in 1870, sixteen-year-old Lottie McAlice defeated Maggie Lew, also sixteen, in what some have called the first women’s rowing race. McAlice’s triumph in a regatta on the Allegheny was “the beginning of women in sports,” a rowing race director told the Pittsburgh Tribune in 2008.
McAlice, who had honed her rowing technique by ferrying her father across the Allegheny River to and from work each day, got off to a fast start and won the mile-and-three-eighths race by 70 yards. Her prize was a gold watch and chain valued at $150.
In 2006, a Lottie McAlice Race, open to female rowers between fourteen and eighteen, was established on the Allegheny.
ON THIS DATE in 1847, fifteen-year-old Hanson Gregory invented the donut — maybe. How he did it is a matter of debate.
According to one story, the donut debuted when Gregory, a shipboard baker’s apprentice, was steering a sea vessel while eating a fried pastry. When a sudden storm rocked the boat, Gregory stuck the treat on a spoke of the steering wheel, knocking out the middle. He decided he liked his pastries without the center and — voilá! — the donut was born.
There’s a hole in that story, in more ways than one. What was a baker’s apprentice doing piloting a ship? In a storm? While munching on a snack? Gregory did eventually become a ship’s captain, but a fifteen-year-old inventing the donut by divine accident in a seastorm is a tale that’s harder to swallow than a soggy-centered pastry.
The account the eighty-four-year-old Gregory told the Washington Post in 1916 is less cinematic but more palatable. There was no storming sea, just a family kitchen in Maine. Watching his mother make fried cakes, Gregory asked why the centers were always so soggy. She said they never got cooked properly. “Well,’ I says to myself, ‘Why wouldn’t a space inside solve the difficulty?” After what he called “a great inspiration,” Gregory “cuts into the middle of that donut the first hole ever seen by mortal eyes!” Were they good? “Well, sir, them donuts was the finest I ever tasted. No more indigestion – no more greasy sinkers – but just well-done, fried-through donuts.”
“Of course a hole ain’t so much,” Gregory told the Post, “but it’s the best part of the donut — you’d think so if you had ever tasted the donuts we used to eat.”
Later, the donut-maker became the youngest sea captain on the Maine coast. He performed well in his second career and is said to have received a medal from the Spanish queen for a rescue of Spanish soldiers.