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Milestones: Thursday, August 31, 2023

August 31, 2023 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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1886 EAST COAST EARTHQUAKE — THE EASTERN UNITED STATES’ FIRST RECORDED MAJOR EARTHQUAKE shook Charleston, South Carolina around 4 a.m. on Aug. 31, 1886, jolting many people awake. Centered near that city but felt within an 800-mile radius, the earthquake is believed to have killed 100 people. Several newspapers in Southern cities and beyond reported having felt a quake, from Charlotte, North Carolina, which reported that a coastal-bound train from Summerville, in the west central part of South Carolina, was derailed, killing the engineer and fireman; Raleigh, N.C. reported several aftershocks, and the shaking could be felt as far north as Cleveland, Ohio and Detroit, Michigan, although for just a moment.

Although the next day’s edition of the Brooklyn Eagle (September 1, 1886) carried an editorial about earthquakes on the U.S. continent, the newspaper here had not received any word of devastation. Just days before, newspapers in the U.S. and Europe had reported on another devastating quake in Greece.


MOURNING PRINCESS DIANA — THE WORLD WATCHED IN SHOCK DURING THE EARLY HOURS OF AUG. 31, 1997 when TV broadcasters announced that “Princess Diana is in grave condition,” following a car crash in a Paris tunnel. Diana, Princess of Wales, had been with her companion, Dodi Fayed, in a chauffeured car that was trying to elude aggressive paparazzi but whose driver was also found to have been driving drunk. Doctors tried for hours to save her life but as the impact from the crash pushed her heart to the right chest, they documented her death as having occurred at 3 a.m. London time (10 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time). The death was publicly announced at 6 a.m. London time. People on both sides of the Atlantic began expressing grief at the death of Princess Diana, who was beloved worldwide for her compassion, beauty and charity work. British citizens began bringing flowers to makeshift memorials and Diana’s Sept. 6 funeral at Westminster Abbey brought two thousand attendees plus 2.5 billion viewers around the world.

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Ironically, on the eve of Princess Diana’s funeral, her friend, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, also died.


CELEBRATING MOLDOVA — NATIONAL LANGUAGE DAY is celebrated in the Eastern European nation of Moldova, each year on Aug. 31, commemorating the change from the Cyrillic alphabet to the Latin alphabet in 1991, the same year the Soviet Union collapsed and its former satellite nations gained their independence. A former Soviet republic, Moldova is a landlocked nation between Romania in the west and the Ukraine to the east, and has adopted the Moldovan language — a subdialect of Romanian — as its official language. Commemorations include ceremonies and the singing of Limba noastră, the country’s national anthem from the poetry of prominent Romanian poet Alexei Mateevici (1888-1917).

Aficionados of the Midwood restaurant Moldova on Coney Island Avenue might be interested in learning about both the language and culinary treats of the nation for which it is named. Moldovan cuisine picks up Romanian, Ukrainian and even Turkish influences: one can find borscht and stuffed grape leaves, stuffed cabbage rolls, meat pies and delicacies with prunes.


CREATIVE PLAYING — MARIA MONTESSORI, born Aug. 31, 1870, at Chiaravalle, Italy, was the first Italian woman in the modern era to earn a medical degree. She specialized in psychiatry, and particularly the treatment of children. Also an educator, she worked with ways of engaging children at the Orthophrenic School in Rome, and developed what teachers call the Montessori Method, which focused on freedom of movement for children, and creative and collaborative play, based on their interests.

Downtown Brooklyn has had a Montessori School since 1965, when it made its home at First Presbyterian Church on Henry St., five years later it moved to 129 Montague St., and then to 185 Court St., where it expanded into an adjacent building, enabling it to add classes up to 8th grade.


SOLIDARITY FOUNDED — THE POLISH TRADE UNION SOLIDARITY was founded on Aug. 31, 1980 in Gdansk, on the Baltic Sea. The communist-controlled government outlawed Solidarity and arrested its leaders, including its founder, Lech Walesa, who gained international respect for his tenacity in resisting the government. Nine years later, in an astonishing move, Polish president Wojciech Jaruzelski nominated Tadeusz Mazowiecki, the editor-in-chief of Solidarity’s weekly newspaper, to be the Polish prime minister. This action ended more than four decades of Communist Party domination in Poland.

Lech Walesa, now 79, went from being a dissident to president of his country, from December 22, 1990 to December 22, 1995, the first to be democratically-elected since 1926. He also won the Nobel Peace Prize.


PROTECTING HUMAN RIGHTS — THE UNITED NATIONS INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR PEOPLE OF AFRICAN DESCENT was established just two years ago, on Aug. 31, 2021. This day recognizes the extraordinary contributions of persons in the African diaspora and works to eliminate discrimination against people of African descent. The observance is part of the International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024). In 2020, the UN’s Human Rights Council adopted the resolution on the “Promotion and protection of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of Africans and people of African descent against excessive use of force and other human rights violations by law enforcement officers.”

UN Secretary-General António Guterres wrote, “I urge States to take concrete steps, with the full participation of people of African descent and their communities, to tackle old and new forms of racial discrimination; and to dismantle entrenched structural and institutional racism.”

See previous milestones, here.

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