Why We Have Forgotten the Worst School Attack in U.S. History

The 1927 attack is often left out of accounts of terrorism in the U.S. On May 18, 1927, a man named Andrew Kehoe blew up the school in Bath Township, Mich. Most of the 44 killed were children. It remains the deadliest attack on a school in U.S. history. It is also regularly left out of accounts of terrorism in America. Kehoe, an electrician, had previously worked on the school and had rigged explosives through the buildings in the weeks leading up to the attack. His timer device in one part of the building failed, so children in those rooms survived. In the immediate aftermath of the school explosion, Kehoe set off another bomb in his car, killing himself and several others nearby. Prior to the school explosion, he had murdered his wife and set his own farm on fire. His motive was anger at a foreclosure on his farm, and the taxes levied by the township to pay for the new school. The story made national headlines immediately, but quickly disappeared. It did not prompt a broader conversation about explosives, or school safety, or mental health, as such an attack today would. Everyone outside Bath Township seemed to forget about it altogether. Part of the reason Kehoe’s crime was forgotten was that he just did not fit most people’s ideas about terrorists. In the 1920s, the terrorists whom most Americans feared were anarchists. Newsreels regularly reported anarchist-related bombings and attacks in the U.S. and abroad. Anarchists were scary—but they were also characterized as shady foreigners. When people thought of anarchists, they thought of men like Sacco and Vanzetti, whose final appeal against death sentences had failed a few weeks before Kehoe’s attack. (They would be executed in August.) White men in small towns did not fit the mold. Get your history fix in one place: sign up for the weekly TIME History newsletter
Today, Kehoe does fit into a defined role for a dangerous individual—we might see him as part of a continuum of angry white men, including the Unibomber and Timothy McVeigh—but in the 1920s, that was not a commonly known archetype. For us, the TV news report with shaken neighbors telling the camera that “he always seemed so quiet” while body bags are wheeled down the driveway behind them has become the stuff of comedy routines. But in 1927, this was not part of most people’s idea of criminality.

via time:Why We Have Forgotten the Worst School Attack in U.S. History

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s