NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Monday, August 31st. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard.
Before we get to the WORLD History Book, Nick, I heard we are running low on pre-rolls.
As you know, those fun messages from listeners we use to introduce the program?
EICHER: Yes, we have gone through the special graduation announcements, which was a great idea to give graduates a little recognition they weren’t able to enjoy because of the COVID lockdowns.
But now we need to get back to normal.
REICHARD: Yeah, in more ways than one!
EICHER: Right. So, back-to-normal prerolls, please. Just “The World and Everything in It is made possible by listeners like us.” Give your name, where you live, what you do, and whatever creative variation on that basic theme and end with “I hope you enjoy today’s program.” You know the drill.
REICHARD: If you haven’t recorded one yet, it’s easy. Just go to worldandeverything.org and look for the “Engage” tab at the top of the page. Under that, you’ll find a link to “Record a preroll.” Click on that for the instructions. Engage. Record a preroll.
EICHER: Well, next up on The World and Everything in It: The WORLD History Book. Fifteen years ago, one of the most damaging hurricanes to hit the U.S. Gulf Coast comes ashore.
But first, the maiden flight of the first U.S. airship and its demise two years later. Here’s Paul Butler.
PAUL BUTLER, REPORTER: Since the end of the 19th century, the idea of “lighter than air flying ships” filled the imagination of a handful of inventors—including German Ferdinand von Zeppelin—who’s name is still most associated with rigid airships.
Zeppelin designed his first dirigible in 1874, but it wasn’t until 25 years later that German investors fully embraced his concept. Zeppelins became popular attractions in Germany leading up to the Great War.
In World War I, the German military used rigid airships to bomb England. And at the Treaty of Versailles, the Allies demanded Germany hand over all remaining airships and cease construction of new ones.
Both England and America started working on their own designs. After a series of deadly accidents, England gave them up, but the U.S. military kept at it.
On September 4th, 1923, the U.S. Navy unveiled the U.S.S. Shenandoah for its maiden flight. It was longer than two football fields and weighed 36 tons.
The girders were built from an aluminum and copper alloy, and covered with cotton. Inside were a series of large balloons made of cattle bladders. The Shenandoah was the first rigid airship to use helium rather than hydrogen, making it much safer than its predecessors.
On September 2, 1925, the Shenandoah departed for a good will tour of the Midwest. It was scheduled to fly over 40 cities with stops at various state fairs.
Over Ohio, it encountered a squall line and caught a rapid updraft. The gas bags expanded beyond their pressure limits and failed. The ship fell out of the sky. Fourteen crew members died in the accident.
The U.S. Navy didn’t abandon the program, but went on to build a successful series of other rigid airships and blimps for recognizance and aerial deployment. It used the ships into the late 1930s.
Next, a couple quick items—this week marks the anniversary of broadcaster Paul Harvey’s birth, September 4th, 1918. At the peak of his career, he spoke to a daily audience of more than 24 million listeners:
HARVEY: Our nation wasn’t carved out of the wilderness. Our nation was hoed, and hammered, and chopped, and sawed out of the wilderness by barehanded men who asked for nothing…
And 47 years ago this week, scholar and novelist, J.R.R. Tolkien died at age 81 on September 2nd, 1973. Here’s an excerpt of an interview about his Lord of the Rings trilogy:
TOLKIEN: The man of the 20th century, whether he believes them or not, he must have gods in a story of this kind. But he can’t make himself believe in gods like Thor, Odin, Aphrodite, Zeus. God is supreme, the creator, outside, transcendent.
And our last entry today is from 15 years ago, August 28th.
NAGIN: An emergency evacuation order is hereby called for all of the parish of Orleans…
It’s a Sunday morning and Hurricane Katrina is barreling toward the U.S. Gulf Coast. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin calls a press conference:
NAGIN: The national weather service has indicated that Hurricane Katrina will likely affect the Louisiana coast with tropical force winds, and heavy rainfall by this evening. Governor Blanco and I have each declared a state of emergency.
After the press conference, the city opens the Louisiana Superdome as a “refuge of last resort.” 20,000 people accept the offer.
WEATHER CHANNEL COVERAGE: What we’re looking at is lots of wind, the power is out, we’re getting some pretty good gusts of wind right now…
The storm hits at dawn on Monday morning. Heavy rains, high storm surges, and broken levies submerge New Orleans in flood waters 10 feet deep—completely covering many homes.
More than 1,800 people die as a result of Hurricane Katrina. The storm damage is estimated to be more than $125 billion. Aid and relief is slow in coming and many blame the federal government.
All that was set aside however for a few hours during the National Day of Prayer service two weeks later. President George W. Bush.
BUSH: The destruction was beyond any human power to control but the restoration of broken communities and disrupted lives now rests in our hands. Americans of every race and religion were touched by this storm, yet much of the hardship fell on citizens already facing lives of struggle. The elderly, the vulnerable, the poor. And this poverty has roots in generations of segregation and discrimination that closed many doors of opportunity. As we clean away the debris of the hurricane, let us also clear away the legacy of inequality.
That’s this week’s WORLD History Book, I’m Paul Butler.