On May 18, 1927, on the last day of school when students were taking their final test of the school year, a bomb was denoted. The culprit who wired the school house with 1,000 lbs of dynamite was the school’s treasurer Andrew Kehoe. He had spent a year buying explosives and smuggling them into the school’s basement. That day Andrew Kehoe killed 45 people including himself, his wife, and several children. It would be the deadliest domestic attack until the Oklahoma City Bombing.
“In the assembly room which I was in, our superintendent, Mr. Huyck, and Mr. Flory, manual training teacher, were giving examinations to one of their classes when at a quarter of ten a loud crash was heard, shaking the assembly and threatening it with the falling of plaster and lights overhead and raising us, a terror stricken group of pupils, out of our seats with violence. We began to run screaming and crying in the same breath, some running for the door while others made for the windows. Mr. Huyck called us together and ordered several of the older boys after a ladder, who were already on the roof with Mr. Flory and leaped a distance of fourteen feet to the ground. I was thankful that I saw my brother and knew he was safe.” Martha Hintz, age 15
Martha Hintz was my great-aunt and her brother she is referring to was my great-uncle Mike Hintz. I grew up hearing about the Bath School Disaster. I went to school in Bath, Michigan when I was in middle school. I inherited family memorabilia that was saved throughout the decades. In the 1950s my uncle made a recording of his testimony. My aunt wrote an essay of her experience for a book. In high school I did a video project on the massacre, it was a compilation of photographs to the music “Wish you were here” by Pink Floyd.
In the past twenty years I have seen a continuance of what happened on that day make headlines in different forms. In the 1990’s it was the Oklahoma City Bombing, the Unabomber, the Georgia Olympics Bombing, and the Columbine Shootings. In the 2000’s it was the World Trade Center, the Virginia Tech Shootings, and the Beltway Sniper Attacks. In the 2010’s it has been the Newton School Shootings, Elliot Rodger’s Rampage, and the Boston Marathon Bombing.
“From every direction we could see people coming, some running at their utmost speed, and others driving machines, both hoping and praying that their children or friends were not among the dead.”
“Men who had already gathered were clearing away the wreckage and pulling out one child after another. This was the most horrible spectacle one could ever witness, truly on the face of the earth, one could not have seen anything more piteous, or shameful than the scene which lay before our eyes.” -Martha Hintz
When events like these happen they leave an imprint in the community. Generations after the Bath School Disaster and I am still talking about it. I heard my aunt and uncle’s testimonies, I heard my grandfather tell their story as he had been told. I have looked over photographs with my mother and heard the pieces of the story she could remember hearing from my great-great grandparents. I myself have read about the events in the news and online. Every time a massacre happens there is a footnote at the bottom of a news page that remembers the event.
What happened on that day nearly 90 years ago can never be undone. The school shootings and bombings since can never be undone. In one moment at a televised sporting event we saw the moment pain and suffering was unleashed into the world. We saw graphic pictures of the sidewalk and bloodied victims on Buzzfeed, that looked so gory it could have been a Hollywood movie set. The Boston Marathon Bombing will be imprinted in the psyche of the American people who witnessed the event live on television and saw the aftermath tweeted in real time.
“We were picked up by a few of our friends and taken to a home nearby only to learn that the mother had lost her little daughter. We tried to comfort her but our efforts were all in vain, she only wept more bitterly with sorrow and moaned for her lost one.”
“Not until we were taken back to Bath did we hear what caused the disaster nor the death of Mr. Huyck and Miss Weatherby. It seemed unbelievable but was not the whole thing like a hideous dream?” -Martha Hintz
The event itself will be examine as all the similar events in the past. There will be headlines when it is decided whether or not Dzhokhar Tsarnev will be executed. The victims will heal and try to understand what happened to them that day. They will wonder why them, why did they go to the Marathon, why did they choose to stand on that street.
They will tell the story to their children and grandchildren as the Bath School Disaster was told to me. They will try to understand the event and look for understanding in similar circumstances. Every time I see one of these events happen I know what will follow- it can’t be put back together again. In one moment after years or months of planning, the decision to press the button or pull the trigger, will unleash suffering. It will leave an imprint for decades and will scar a community.
“As we gazed at the mournful picture, my brother came and said he was going home. I bid my friends good-bye who stood nearby and turned to my teacher and gave her a word of farewell and thus we parted.”
“As we made our way homeward the well-known passage came and lo, how true it was, “He will never forsake thee.” -Martha Hintz