Aug. 9 has always been a special day for me.
As a child, I spent the day in upstate New York. As a late teenager and a 20-something, I spent the day in Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Indiana, and Michigan.
More recently, we’ve usually spent the day at 10,000 feet in the Colorado Rockies with my extended family.
But this year was different. I celebrated my birthday at home and had a wonderful turkey dinner, embellished by sweet corn, spinach salad, and fresh blackberries with yogurt.
After dinner, we played dominoes, and I received a doggie birthday card from my two “granddogs,” Amber and Nina.
Aug. 9, 2008 was an extraordinarily tranquil day for me. So tranquil that I had lots of time to research what else had happened on my birthday.
I found that Aug. 9 was an important day—even in antiquity. Back in 48 B.C., Julius Caesar defeated Pompey of Greece.
But more important, construction of the Tower of Pisa began on Aug. 9, 1173. The white marble tower was well-built, with walls 14 feet wide at the base.
Construction went well for the first five years. But then, in 1178 after the third floor was constructed, the tower began to sink. It was built on unstable subsoil.
Construction was halted for 94 years. In 1272, engineers tried to compensate for the leaning, but then the tower leaned the other way. As a result, it took 199 years to completely finish the tower.
And the tower still leaned. Thus, the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Other interesting things happened years ago on Aug. 9. For instance, the Sistine Chapel was opened in 1483. And Thoreau’s “Walden” was published in 1854.
My research unearthed many more snippets about the day—inventions were patented, the New Orleans Superdome was used for the first time, and hockey star Wayne Gretzky of Edmonton, Alta. was traded to the L.A. Kings.
Most of what I found was fun and entertaining.
But one fact stopped me in my tracks. On my birthday in 1945, the United States dropped the second atomic bomb on Japan, killing 74,000 people and leaving many more with radiation burns.
It was a fluke that the bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. On Aug. 6, the first bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, killing 140,000 people. The plan on Aug. 9 was to drop the second bomb on Kokura. But, because of poor visibility, the aircraft chose its secondary target: Nagasaki.
Discovering that fact almost spoiled my birthday. It brought back memories of how happy we were on Aug. 15, 1945 when Japan surrendered and the war was over.
I stood with my mother on the hillside three miles from town. Even from that distance, we could hear the sounds of celebration—horns honking and sirens blaring.
At the time, I had no idea what a terrible price we had paid for peace!
My birthday research now complete, these startling reminders of a sad time almost stole away my tranquility. But the calendar by my computer helped bring me back to the moment, “In the vast infinity of life, all is perfect, whole, and complete . . . and so am I.”
Yes, life goes on. And Aug. 9 this year was a very good day.
Marie Snider is an award-winning health care writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.visit-snider.com
This Side of 60 logo