2006_07_30_blacktom.jpg

So, yesterday was the 30th anniversary of the first Son of Sam killings and today is another sad day in local history (*cough* Jersey *cough*). On July 31, 1916 Black Tom island, which was next to Liberty Island, literally blew up and off the map (what was left of the island is now part of the mainland in Liberty State Park). The island was a major munitions depot. And by major we mean "2,000 tons of munitions parked in freight cars and pierside barges." After midnight small fires started on some of the piers and then began to grow. Around 2:08 a.m. the munitions started to explode.

And explode is barely the word: The shock-waves from Black Tom shattered windows up to 25 miles away. It stopped the clocktower of the Jersey Journal at 2:12 AM. It rattled the Statue of Liberty so badly that the torch, which had been open to the public for thirty years, had to be closed (and, uh, still is). Immigrants waiting to be processed on Ellis Island were rushed to Manhattan. It is estimated that the Black Tom explosions would have measured a 5.5 on the Richter Scale (the WTC's north tower registered a 2.3 when it collapsed). Smaller explosions continued for hours injuring hundreds, though with only seven fatalities.

Though initially smudge pots lit to keep mosquitoes at bay were blamed for the explosion, it quickly became clear that Germany was behind the boom-boom (the munitions were headed to the Allies). Though sponsored by another nation you can argue that Black Tom was the first major terrorist attack on the US.

Anybody know if they still keep huge stockpiles off munitions in or near the City? Cause after reading up on this, we'd like to not live near there.

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1916 photograph of the Aftermath of the Black Tom Explosion from Liberty State Park. Map from Google Maps