1. 1991: Magic Johnson announces sudden retirement
Basketball fans all over the world were stunned when Magic Johnson made a sudden announcement that he would be retiring from the NBA due to testing positive for HIV on this day in 1991. Johnson is one of the most revered and highly respected ballplayers that ever lived. During his 13 seasons, he managed to make the all-star team 12 times and help the Los Angeles Lakers win a total of five championships. He was also one of the first players to receive a mega high dollar contracts when the Lakers offered him $25 million for a 25-year deal. In the early ’90s, most people were uneducated in regards to the difference between HIV and AIDS and they thought Magic would pass away within a year or two. But that obviously wasn’t the case. Magic even had the desire to return to the NBA after the shock of receiving the news wore off. But it turns out that other players in the league made it very clear that they would refuse to play against Johnson due to his condition, most notably Karl Malone from the Utah Jazz. Instead, Magic became a successful businessman with properties all over the country, and more importantly became a spokesperson for AIDS awareness.
2. 1980: Steve McQueen passes away
While undergoing a special experimental cancer treatment in Mexico, the actor and automotive enthusiast Steve McQueen passed away on this date in 1980. McQueen had starred in some of the most iconic and popular films of that era, such as The Towering Inferno and our personal favorite, Bullitt. Due to his love for cars, off-roading, and speed in general, McQueen was heavily involved in racing of all types. He was diagnosed with mesothelioma, which is cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Some people feel as if wearing racing suits all those years might have been where he was exposed to the asbestos.
3. 1940: The main span of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapsed
It was on this date in 1940 that the main section of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapsed just four months after it was completed. The bridge spanned the Tacoma Narrows at roughly 2,800 feet long and connected the Gig Harbor Penninsula back to Tacoma, Washington. Interestingly, even though the bridge was almost a half a mile long it was very slender in width, measuring only 39 feet across which provided only two lanes for vehicle traffic. Because of this, the bridge was heavily affected by the wind. Some reports indicate that if it was a windy day, buying a toll ticket to drive across the bridge was just as good as going for a ride on a rollercoaster because the bridge would sway so much. It even earned the nickname among the locals of “Galloping Gertie”. Even though it was designed to withstand wind speeds up to 120mph, the entire structure was brought down by what could be considered a “stiff breeze” with the wind just over 40mph. Apparently, the wind had resonated with the natural frequency of the structure and caused the amplitude to go off the charts. A more common way to explain this phenomenon is when a glass is shattered by a singer hitting a specific pitch. Luckily there weren’t any casualties from the collapse and it was redesigned and rebuilt by 1950.