April’s Cruelties

As fond as I am of April, I’ve grown paranoid about it, too. In “The Wasteland,” T.S. Eliot calls April “the cruelest month.” I’m sure if you studied a timeline of history for other months, you’d fine them rife with tragedies and disasters as well. And maybe I’m just more sensitive about April, more keenly aware of it because I expect it to be bright and happy.

April, though, is full of terrible anniversaries. Take this week alone, April 13-19. On the 14th, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated and the Titanic hit the iceberg. The ship sank on the 15th, which is also the date Lincoln called out Union troops in response to Fort Sumter and the American Civil War began.

Today, the 16th, is the first anniversary of the Virginia Tech massacre. April 18 marks the great earthquake in San Francisco, with massive destruction and loss of life. April 19 is a doubly dark day, with anniversaries of Waco and the Oklahoma City bombing.

I consider April 20 part of this disaster-prone period, too, because of Columbine. Then, history evens out for awhile. What on earth is it about these eight days of April? Of course, I know part of that answer. Waco, Oklahoma City, Columbine, and Virginia Tech are connected, directly and indirectly, one tragedy building on another (and inspiring further atrocities). I think it’s modern history that makes me fear this week of April. It’s becoming some kind of sick tradition, and it’s profoundly disturbing. I get nervous during this period, worried what kind of violent event will rip the wounds open again and inflict more agony and grief.

Have good things happened during these eight days of April? Of course. The Civil War ended as well as started during this period. Apollo 13 returned safely to earth. Read one of those “on this day in history” timelines for any day in this stretch and you’ll find heartening stories and good news.

Maybe I’d feel better if more of those disasters were far, far in the past — worthy of commemoration, but not still draining like an open gash. Maybe then I’d turn on the television with cheerful expectancy, rather than dreading what nightmare will be screaming from the screen.

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