Twenty years ago today, I was home sick from school, a 6th-grader lying in bed. All day long there was this standoff in West Philadelphia (I'm from the suburbs of Philly) between the police and MOVE, the radical fringe group. What started as a domestic disturbance (the neighbors basically forced the city to get involved) turned into a shootout, played out live on Philly TV stations. Then a chopper dropped a bomb on the compound, hoping to take out a bunker situated on the roof. Nobody could believe that the Philadelphia Police Department would be that remiss, to bomb a row house. Sure enough, the entire block of Osage Avenue went up in flames, and 11 people were dead, 5 of them children, all of them stuck inside the MOVE house (the rest of the block was evacuated.
"Incedniary device" became a playground joke for about two weeks after that. I don't think I was really plugged in to what the whole thing meant, but even I had enough experience in Philly row houses (half my family lived in them) to know that if you drop a bomb on one, the rest of them are going to ignite. You don't need gasoline, like the cops accused MOVE of dousing their building with.
Amazingly, nobody in the Police or Fire Departments was ever indicted, or even accused of negligence, in the MOVE case, and Wilson Goode, the embattled mayor, ended up being re-elected. I couldn't believe what a national joke my city was at the time. Not to mention a source of tragedy.
MOVE was not content to play by the rules, but surely there was a better way to deal with them than to raze the entire city block to the ground.
Anyway, I thought it was important to remember that day on its 20th anniversary.