This Day In History, May 18th

What happened on this day in history: Pope John Paul II is born, Mount St. Helens erupts, and more from May 18th.

1804: Napoleon Proclaims Himself Emperor

Napoleon Bonaparte declares that France is an empire and that he is its emperor. Just 34 years old, the bold military commander had risen to power in the aftermath of the French Revolution and quickly set about strengthening his position both at home and abroad. In 1799, he engineered a coup and officially took power in France and later codified his status as emperor at his December 1804 coronation. As emperor, he led his armies into nearly every corner of Europe, from Spain to Russia, before finally being defeated by a British-led coalition army at the Battle of Waterloo in present-day Belgium in 1815.

1918: Pope John Paul II Is Born

Pope John Paul Ii

Public DomainPope John Paul II in 1991.

Future Pope John Paul II is born in Wadowice, Poland. First known as Karol Józef Wojtyła, he came of age during World War II and decided to become a priest in 1942. He slowly rose through the ranks and became pope in 1978. As pope, he spoke out against communism and issued a rare apology from the Catholic Church for not taking action to do what it could to fight the Nazis during the Holocaust. He remained pope until his death on April 2, 2005 at age 84.

1927: The Bath School Massacre Leaves 45 Dead

Aftermath Of Bath School Disaster

Wikimedia CommonsThe front of the school in the aftermath of the bombing.

The Bath School disaster takes place in Bath Township, Michigan. Apparently enraged by rising property taxes, a local man named Andrew Kehoe placed dynamite under the floor of Bath Consolidated School and detonated it, immediately killing 36 children and two teachers. Kehoe also drove to the school and blew up his truck, killing himself and four others. What’s more, the discovery of dynamite in another wing of the school suggested that he’d meant to cause even more extensive destruction and death that day.

1980: Mount St. Helens Erupts

Mt St Helens

Public DomainThe eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980.

Mount St. Helens erupts in Washington State. Following a series of small earthquakes that started about a month earlier, the volcano exploded with about 500 times the force of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. It killed 57 people and obliterated over 200 square miles of surrounding terrain and the wildlife therein.

2017: Grunge Legend Chris Cornell dies

Grunge legend Chris Cornell dies from suicide in his Detroit hotel room. As the lead singer of Soundgarden and Audioslave, Cornell made his mark on the grunge scene. On the night of his death, Cornell spoke to his wife on the phone and was reportedly slurring his words heavily. His wife was concerned, and she asked for others to check on him. By the time they did, it was already too late. Even today, his death is surrounded in controversy: Was it really suicide? Was anyone involved?