As days of the year go, Oct. 23 is as typical as they come. Dozens of significant events occurred on Oct. 23 through history, some more historic and some more memorable than others.
On Oct. 23 in 1850, the first National Women's Rights Convention was held in Massachusetts. In 1861, President Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus.
Thousands of Hungarians poured into the streets protesting Soviet domination on Oct. 23, 1956, and Richard Nixon finally yielded to a subpoena for his tapes, turning them over to Judge John J. Sirica on Oct. 23, 1973.
Johnny Carson was born on that date in 1925, and the Grande Dame of Country Music, Mother Maybelle Carter, died in 1978.
Sunday, Oct. 23, 1983, was not typical.
I was enjoying my morning coffee and looking forward to the ritual daytrip through the Sunday Bee, spread out in front of me on the kitchen table, the radio on low in the background.
While still in the comics section, a short bulletin came over the radio. There had been an explosion at the Marine barracks in Beirut and there were reports of injuries. My ears perked up and I listened more closely as I continued my journey through the paper.
A few minutes later, the voice on the radio updated the bulletin with new reports of several dead and wounded. I was now tuned in to whatever came through the tiny speaker, now turned up a few decibels, but still low enough not to disturb the rest of the family, sleeping in on a Sunday morning.
I continued reading the paper but it was quickly becoming secondary while my ears were tuned to the radio waiting for the next bulletin, because there would be additional bulletins and updates. It was going to be a long morning.
After several updates with only a few minutes in between it became obvious this was a major terrorist attack on U.S. servicemen. It was not the first, and may someday be measured as one of the first of the new era of direct terror attacks on Americans.
"New information from sources in Beirut report dozens killed, over 40 wounded."
"Over 60 dead in Beirut barracks bombing, many more wounded."
An unbroken stream of unconfirmed reports, unnamed sources, and second-hand reports of third-hand conversations took over the airwaves, and television was interrupting football games for Special Reports, Bulletins, and updates
At the end of the day, 241 Americans had been killed: 220 Marines, 18 sailors, and three soldiers — 128 others were wounded in the attack.
A suicide bomber drove a truck filled with 21,000 pounds of TNT through a concertina wire barrier up to the barracks and detonated it.
The Americans were part of a multinational peacekeeping force, sent to Lebanon to help maintain order amid the civil war.
It is now 30 years since that tragic Sunday morning in Beirut. At Section 59 in Arlington National Cemetery, there is a Cedar of Lebanon planted in honor of the 241 who were killed, many of whom are buried nearby.
It remains the largest single-day loss of Marines since the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II.
Two days later, on Oct. 25, the United States invaded Grenada in Operation Urgent Fury where 19 Americans were killed in the victorious effort to restore constitutional government to the island nation.
Less than two years later, Navy diver Robert Dean Stetham was beaten to death by terrorists who seized TWA Flight 847. Stetham was savagely beaten and his lifeless body thrown to the tarmac in Beirut while other passengers sat by.
After 30 years, as noteworthy and tragic as these events are, they collect dust in the corners of our collective history, obscured by the bulletins and updates of the most recent tragedies, turmoil and trouble, and aside from family, friends and colleagues of those involved, these days will pass with little acknowledgment and less conscious memory.
At the end of the day, 241 Americans had been killed: 220 Marines, 18 sailors and three soldiers; 128 others were wounded.
Jim Doyle of Fresno is a freelance writer and veterans advocate.