On This Day, February 3rd

1. 1959: The Day the Music died

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Just after midnight on this date in 1959, a small aircraft carrying three of the most popular musicians at the time crashed less than five minutes after it took off from Clear Lake, Iowa. Onboard was Ritchie Valens (who was just 17 years old at the time), J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, and Buddy Holly who had just landed his first number one hit with “That’ll Be the Day.” Unfortunately, the tragedy could’ve been avoided if the young 21-year-old pilot by the name of Roger Petersen had inquired about the upcoming weather conditions. Instead, the inexperienced pilot decided to take off even though poor visibility made visual navigation nearly impossible and he was untrained and uncertified in instrument only navigation. According to reports, he may have been influenced by the equally young Buddy Holly who had chartered the plane at the last minute. He was hoping to avoid a long and cold trip to their next stop on the Winter Dance Party Tour on a tour bus with no heater. Holly originally booked the plane for him and his band, but The Big Bopper and Valens made arrangements with Holly’s band members to swap places. Guitarist, Tommy Allsup, offered to flip a coin with Valens for his seat on the plane and lost. Richardson somehow managed to convince Holly’s other guitarist to swap places with him at the very last minute. That guitarist was none other than Waylon Jennings, who went on to become a country music legend in his own right. The song “American Pie” by Don McLean was designed to memorialize the three musicians and “the day the music died.”

2. 1998: U.S. Fighter Jet severs ski-lift cable in Italy

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While out on a routine flight in the Italian countryside, the United States Marine Corps pilots of an EA-6B Prowler aircraft managed to sever a steel cable that held a gondola of an aerial tramway. This caused it to fall more than 260 feet to the ground which instantly killed all 20 passengers onboard. The pilots, Captain Joseph Schweitzer, and Captain Richard J. Ashby were flying well under the 2,000-foot altitude regulation in an attempt to “take videos of the scenery” and just to “have fun.” Later reports indicate that they had to of been flying between 260 and 330 feet off the ground at over 540mph when the aircraft’s right wing clipped the cable at a ski resort in the Dolomites, near the town of Cavalese. The jet received minor damage but still managed to return back to the Aviano Air Base where they were stationed. In an attempt to hide what they had done, they destroyed the videotape recorded from inside the plane and later were found guilty of obstruction of justice and dismissed from the Marine Corps.

3. 2002: The New England Patriots won their first Super Bowl

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The New England Patriots are scheduled to play the Atlanta Falcons this coming Sunday in Super Bowl LI (51) and it will be the ninth time the team has made it to the championship game. However, it was on this date in 2002 that the Patriots got their first ever Super Bowl win when they beat the St. Louis Rams in a nail-biting game 20-17. Just as the clock expired, kicker Adam Vinatieri split the uprights with a long 49-yard field goal to win the game. More than 73,000 people were in attendance at the Louisiana Superdome to watch this monumental achievement take place. Tensions were extremely high due to potential terrorist threats since the game was played just five months following the devastating attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. There was another first at this game, George H.W. Bush became the first President to perform the coin toss in person at the game. Prior to that, it was done remotely via satellite.