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The Events that Shaped America's History: Boston Massacre, Alcatraz

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Everything has an opposite. Where there is law, there is crime. Crime has been around as long as there has been an organised government. Today we will dive deep into ten criminal events, people, and ideas in American history that caused change throughout the country.

The Boston Massacre

March 5th 1770. It was on this fateful night that five young men were shot and killed in Boston, Massachusetts. British soldiers had caused rising tensions in Boston for quite some time. The patriots were getting fed up and decided to do something about it. A mob of about 50 patriots began throwing snowballs, rocks, sticks, and almost anything they could find at the British sentinel. He wasn’t going to stand there and take the harassment and the Patriots should have known this. Yet they continued to bother the soldier until chaos broke out and the fight between the mob and the Soldiers became a riot. Someone in the mix yelled fire, confusing the soldier and causing him to shoot into the crowd. (gunshot) Five young men, dead. Shot and killed by British Soldiers.

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“Last Wednesday Night died, Patrick Carr, an inhabitant of this Town, of the Wound he received in King-Street on the bloody and execrable Night of the 5th Instant—– He had just before left his Home, and upon coming into the Street received the fatal Ball in his Hip which passed out at the opposite Side ; this is the fifth Life that has been sacrificed by the Rage of the Soldiery, but it is feared it will not be the last, several others are dangerously languishing of their Wounds. His Remains were attended on Saturday last from Faneuil-Hall by a numerous and respectable Train of Mourners, to the same grave, in which those who fell by the same Hands of Violence were interred the last week.” Patrick Carr’s obituary. Because of the British Soldiers recklessness five Patriots ended up dead.

Hanford Nuclear Site

A secret kept from the public by the government for years, The Hanford Nuclear Site first opened and began operation in 1943. The Site required many people to give up their land by order of the government. Over the years the site produced plutonium which was used to help create the Fat Man, a bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan on August 9, 1945. A blast that devastated the city and left lasting effects on the residents. Despite the horrors that the use of this plutonium left on the city of Nagasaki, the blast helped the United States in winning the Second World War.

Government secrets affect the public for years to come, especially the Hanford Nuclear Site. Because it was a secret the people who would soon be affected by it didn’t know. This means that they weren’t able to take precautions that could have helped them and their family in the future. Many people who worked on the site, or lived near it, developed cancer or other deadly diseases due to exposure to radioactive waste. Although the site affected people terribly, it still helped America win and end the Second World War. For thirty years the site remained open until the last reactor ceased all operations in 1987. When the Site closed, it left 53 million gallons of radioactive waste behind. From then on the mission for the site was to complete cleanup.

Escape from Alcatraz

Four men, planning an escape and planning to start new lives. Only three of them got close. Frank Morris, John Anglin, and Clarence Anglin escaped their cells, and made it off the island on June 11, 1962. Although it is known that they made it off the island, by creating a raft made of old rain jackets sewn together, it is unknown if they survived their trip to Angel Island. The fourth man planning to escape, didn’t make it out of his cell in time to go with the rest of the men. He gave the following information to the FBI…

The men loosened air vents in the back of their cells with a homemade drill made of an old vacuum cleaner. They drilled enough so that they could take out the vent and fit through and remove and replace the air vent and fit through the hole in the wall. They went through the vent into an unguarded corridor and climbed to the top of the 30 foot high roof. They opened a ventilator at the top and climbed out. They made it out of the building and off the island using the raft that they made. The fact that three men were able to escape from the most secure prison in the country is kind of scary, considering that other prisons are less guarded and still have some really dangerous prisoners. America has more secure prisons now…

D.B. Cooper

D.B. Cooper was infamous for his skyjacking of flight 305 on November 24, 1971. While in the air, he gave a flight attendant a note saying that he had a bomb. The flight attendant was asked by him to sit with him. She did. She asked him to see the bomb and he opened his briefcase showing eight red cylinders and wires. He demanded $200,000 and four parachutes. The passengers on the plane were told that their plane landing would be delayed due to “mechanical difficulty”. The flight landed at 5:39 pm, and the plane taxied to an isolated gate, the window shades where closed, and the passengers were released.

At 7:40, the plane took off again. The plane left with just five people on board. Cooper told the crew to go into the cockpit and leave the door closed. They obeyed these orders and around 8:00 a warning light began flashing in the cockpit, meaning that the airstairs had been opened. The crew offered to help, but he declined it. Soon the crew noticed a change in air pressure, meaning that the door had been opened. Around 8:13 the tail of the plane experienced a sudden upward movement. At 10:15 the aft airstair was still open when the plane landed. Police surrounded the plane to check if Cooper was still on board. The search ended quickly, showing that he was no longer on board.

A month after this event, the FBI gave out a list of the serial numbers of the ransom money to casinos, racetracks, and other establishments that often had cash transactions. In 1980, a young boy playing in the sand, discovered the ransom money along the columbia river. It is unknown if Cooper survived his jump from the plane. 45 years later, the official investigation ended. Although it is thought that Robert Rackstraw was D.B. Cooper, nobody really knows.

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