Johnstown Flood Kills 2,209 (1889)

When the South Fork Dam near Johnstown, Pennsylvania, collapsed after several days of heavy rains, it sent 20 million tons (18.1 million cubic meters) of water cascading downriver at speeds of 20–40 mph (30–60 km/h). Less than an hour after the breach, a 30-foot (9-m) wall of water smashed into Johnstown, killing more than 2,200 people. The American Red Cross’s response was one of its first major disaster relief efforts. Why did some blame the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club for the tragedy? Discuss

Feast of the Visitation

On this day, Christian churches in the West commemorate the Virgin Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth. After learning that she was to be the mother of Jesus, Mary went into the mountains of Judea to see her cousin, the wife of Zechariah, who had conceived a son to be known as John the Baptist. According to the Gospel of Luke, Elizabeth’s baby “leaped in her womb” (1:41) at the sound of Mary’s voice. It was at this moment, according to the belief of some Roman Catholics, that John the Baptist was cleansed from original sin and filled with heavenly grace. Discuss

Francis Younghusband (1863)

Younghusband was a British Army officer and explorer remembered for his travels in the Far East and Central Asia. In 1887, he journeyed from China to India, crossing the Gobi desert and the Mustagh Pass of the Karakorum range. In 1904, he led a military expedition that participated in the massacring of Tibetan troops and forced a treaty upon Tibet that opened it to Western trade. Apparently, he later regretted his role in these events. What changed his mind? Discuss

The Winchester Mystery House

The Winchester Mystery House is a famous California mansion that is reputed to be haunted. Sarah Winchester, the widow of a gun magnate, began building the Winchester Mystery House in 1884 after a medium advised her to construct a house to appease the ghosts of all those killed by Winchester rifles. Construction continued for 38 years, since Sarah Winchester believed that if she stopped working on the house, she would die. What significance does the number 13 have in the mansion? Discuss

Feast Day of St. Joan of Arc

The second patron saint of France and one of the best known of all the saints, Joan of Arc was a young, pious peasant girl from the village of Domrémy. In 1428, she heard voices she identified as St. Michael, St. Catherine, and St. Margaret telling her to help the dauphin, Charles VII, recover his kingdom from the British. Her mission was accomplished within 15 months, but Joan was captured by the king’s enemies, tried for witchcraft and heresy, and burned at the stake in Rouen on May 30, 1431. Discuss

Peter Carl Fabergé (1846)

Famed for the decorative eggs that bear his name, Fabergé was a Russian goldsmith and jeweler. After inheriting his father’s jewelry business, Fabergé decided to expand its scope to include the production of objects made with precious materials like silver, gold, and gems. His studio’s opulent, intricate, and ingenious Easter eggs, which were often commissioned as gifts by tsars Alexander III and Nicholas II, are perhaps his most enduring legacy. Why did Fabergé eventually flee Russia? Discuss

Mount Everest

The peak of Mount Everest is 29,035 ft (8,850 m) above sea level, making it the highest point on earth. It is called Chomo-Lungma, or “Mother of the Universe,” by the Tibetans, and Devgri in Sanskrit, meaning “Holy Mountain.” The first confirmed ascent of the mountain took place in 1953, by Hillary of New Zealand and Norgay of Nepal; however, whether George Mallory had successfully ascended the mountain in 1924 before dying is a matter of controversy. What is the Death zone? Discuss