Global & Disaster Medicine

Archive for the ‘Historical’ Category

Jan. 15, 1919: “Send all available rescue vehicles and personnel immediately — there’s a wave of molasses coming down Commercial Street.”


  • The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919
  • 2 million gallon tank erupted
  • 21 killed



The Pandemic of 1918: “……since it happened once, analogous conditions could lead to an equally devastating pandemic….”


Taubenberger JK, Morens DM. 1918 Influenza: the Mother of All Pandemics. Emerging Infectious Diseases. 2006;12(1):15-22. doi:10.3201/eid1201.050979.

The “Spanish” influenza pandemic of 1918–1919, which caused ≈50 million deaths worldwide, remains an ominous warning to public health. Many questions about its origins, its unusual epidemiologic features, and the basis of its pathogenicity remain unanswered. The public health implications of the pandemic therefore remain in doubt even as we now grapple with the feared emergence of a pandemic caused by H5N1 or other virus. However, new information about the 1918 virus is emerging, for example, sequencing of the entire genome from archival autopsy tissues. But, the viral genome alone is unlikely to provide answers to some critical questions. Understanding the 1918 pandemic and its implications for future pandemics requires careful experimentation and in-depth historical analysis.

CDC: 1918 Pandemic Video

This image shows the order of events leading up to the reconstruction of the 1918 virus by Dr. Terrence Tumpey within CDC’s biosecurity level 3 enhanced laboratory.

This image lists lessons learned from the study of the reconstructed 1918 virus at CDC and why it was so deadly.

1918 Flu Pandemic Commemoration

1/13/1982: an Air Florida Boeing 727 plunges into the Potomac River in Washington, D.C., killing 78 people.


“…..Two people in particular emerged as heroes during the rescue: Arland Williams and Lenny Skutnik. Known as the “sixth passenger,” Williams survived the crash, and passed lifelines on to others rather than take one for himself. He ended up being the only plane passenger to die from drowning. When one of the survivors to whom Williams had passed a lifeline was unable to hold on to it, Skutnik, who was watching the unfolding tragedy, jumped into the water and swam to rescue her…..”

  • The bridge was later renamed the Arland D. Williams Jr. Memorial Bridge.

See the source image




1/2/1971: 66 football (soccer) fans are killed in a stampede at Ibrox Stadium in Glasgow, Scotland, as they attempt to leave a game at the same time and in the same place.



12/30/1903, the deadliest theater fire in U.S. history: A fire in the Iroquois Theater in Chicago, Illinois, kills more than 600 people.


The bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland took place on 12/21/1988, killing 270 souls.



12/17/1961: A fire at a circus in Brazil kills more than 300 people and severely burns hundreds more.


12/16/1920: The 8.5M Gansu (Haiyuan) earthquake impacted an area of some 25,000 square miles, including 10 major population centers resulting in the deaths of some 200 000 people.


12/16/1960: 2 airplanes collide over New York City, killing 134 people on the planes and on the ground.



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