Wednesday, June 06, 2007

June 6

On this date in 1242, Church authorities in Paris set fire to 24 wagonloads of Jewish books. The bonfire was conducted in a manner consistent with the wishes of the late Pope Gregory IX, who had issued that all Hebrew texts were to be seized on Saturday, 3 March 1240, while French Jews were attending synagogue. The confiscated texts were then scoured by Dominican and Franciscan censors, who were charged with identifying and incinerating works that contained “errors” and were “injurious” to Christianity.

Precisely 510 years after the Paris book burning, an enormous fire -- the third in as many weeks -- gutted a full third of Moscow. One hundred and thirty-seven years later, on 6 June 1889, a tipped glue pot in a Seattle carpentry shop caught fire and quickly spread throughout the wharf and downtown commercial district. Remarkably, no lives were lost in the disaster, although nearly sixty blocks of mostly wooden buildings were reduced to ash.

On 6 June 1971. a commercial DC-9 and a Marine F4 Phantom collided in mid-air near Duarte, California. The wing of the Phantom severed the cockpit from the cabin of Airwest Flight 706; both planes then tumbled 15,000 feet into the San Gabriel Mountains, killing everyone but the Marine co-pilot, who managed to eject from the doomed fighter and parachute to safety. Forty-nine passengers and crew members died on Flight 706, whose final destination that night was to be the city of Seattle.

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