Posts Tagged ‘Washingtonians’


The District of Columbia War Memorial

Tomorrow morning at approximately 10:45am marks exactly one century since Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophie were shot to death by a 19-year old Bosnian Serb nationalist named Gavrilo Princip during an official visit to the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo. The killings sparked a chain of events that by early August of that year led to the outbreak of World War I.  On June 28, 1919, five years to the day after Archduke Ferdinand’s death, Germany and the Allied Powers signed the Treaty of Versailles, officially marking the end of World War I.

The day before Archduke Ferdinand’s assassination, on June 27, 1914, who could have predicted that the next day’s actions of Gavrilo Princip would, over the next five years, lead to over 16 million additional deaths, including 499 citizens of D.C., who were 4,680 miles away at that time?

That’s the butterfly effect.  The butterfly effect is a term used in chaos theory to describe how small changes to a seemingly unrelated thing or condition (also known as an initial condition) can affect large, complex systems. The term comes from the suggestion that the flapping of a butterfly’s wings in South America could affect the weather in Texas, meaning that the tiniest influence on one part of a system can have a huge effect on another part. Taken more broadly, the butterfly effect is a way of describing how, unless all factors can be accounted for, large systems like the weather remain impossible to predict with total accuracy because there are too many unknown variables to track.

So to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, I rode to the District of Columbia War Memorial, located at just of Independence Avenue on the National Mall near the Lincoln Memorial (MAP).  The memorial, which stands in West Potomac Park, is located in a grove of trees.  It is the only local District memorial on the National Mall.  The Memorial commemorates the citizens of the D.C. who served in what was then known as the Great War, or the World War.  Built prior to World War II, they did not contemplate at that time that there would be another world war necessitating the designation of that world war as the first one.  Inscribed on the base of the memorial are the names of the 499 D.C. citizens who lost their lives in the war.  Also preserved in a vault at the Memorial is a list of over 26,000 additional Washingtonians who served in the Great War.

What did you do today that, through a butterfly effect, may have an influence on the future?  What will that influence be, and will it be positive or negative?

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