This Day in History: Sept. 14

1741: Handel finishes Messiah: George Frideric Handel, native to Germany, became a British subject in 1727 and was the most prominent composer in Baroque England. Handel composed his most famous oratorio, Messiah, in a speedy 24 days. He concluded the manuscript with the letters S.D.G., or Solis Deo Gloria, which means “To God alone the glory” in English. His speed of composition and this inscription has led to legends that Handel was given supernatural inspiration for the piece as it was a song on traditional Christian theology at a time when deism was increasingly popular.

1814: Oh say can you see?: The Battle of Baltimore, during the war of 1812, saw American forces repel the British at Fort McHenry, near Baltimore, MD. Francis Scott Key, an American lawyer, dined as a guest aboard the H.M.S. Tonnant, to negotiate the release of American prisoners. His efforts were in vain as he watched British shells bombard Fort McHenry. He saw the flag still waving at dawn and wrote the poem “Defense of Fort McHenry.” The lyrics were set to the tune of a song of the Anacreontic Society, a British social club. The Star Spangled Banner was born but did not become our official national anthem until 1931.

1959: First man-made object crashes into the Moon: One of the more interesting and beneficial rivalries to come out of the Cold War between the United States and the U.S.S.R. was the space race. The world’s superpowers competed for supremacy among the stars. The Soviets had already sent the first satellite and dog into space, and in 1959 the first man-made object, the Soviet Luna-2, crashed into the Moon, becoming the first human-made object to do so.

1960: Congo crisis: The country now called the Democratic Republic of the Congo was once a colony of Belgium, and it gained its independence in 1960, its first leader being Patrice Lumumba. Belgium backed Katangan secessionists, and Lumumba turned to the Soviet Union for help. Mobutu Sese Seko, backed by the United States, seized power in a coup d’etat. He ruled as a model of African dictator’s one-party state until 1997. Despite his
corruption, he was a U.S. ally due to his anti-communism.

2001: Prayer services for 9/11: The United States and the world was still reeling from the attacks on 9/11, during which Al Qaeda terrorists hijacked American flights and flew them into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and another flight was steered from its target in D.C. to a field in Pennsylvania. In total, almost 3,000 people were killed. On Sept. 14, a prayer service was held at both the National Cathedral in Washington D.C., but also Parliament Hill in Canada.

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