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April 21, 1898: Congress recognizes that state of war exists between U.S. and Spain and declares Spanish-American War

The Spanish-American War erupted in early 1898. Hostilities ended in August, and the Treaty of Paris was signed in December. The war began after the U.S. demanded that Spain peacefully resolve the Cuban fight for independence. Spain rejected the demand, and riots in Havana caused the U.S. to send a warship, the USS Maine. Tensions mounted when the Maine mysteriously exploded.

The war ended after decisive U. S. naval victories in the Philippines and Cuba. The Treaty of Paris, which ended the conflict, gave the United States ownership of the former Spanish colonies of Puerto Rico, the Philippines and Guam.

April 20, 1999: 2 gunmen kill 13 and injure 24 before committing suicide at Columbine High School

Students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 12 students and a teacher and wounded 23 others before committing suicide. The massacre sparked debate regarding gun control laws, gun violence involving youths and a lack of school security. The shootings were blamed on a wide range of causes including goth culture, gun culture, anti-depressant use by teens, violent video games, films and music, and the Internet.

In the aftermath, the media speculated about the killers' motivation and whether anything could have prevented the crime; however, because both shooters committed suicide, their true motives were difficult to determine.

April 19, 1995: Federal Building in Oklahoma City bombed, killing 168

The terrorist bombing attack on the U.S. government housed in the Oklahoma City Federal Building claimed 168 lives and injured more than 800. Shortly after the explosion, 26-year-old Timothy McVeigh was stopped for driving without a license plate and unlawfully carrying a weapon. He and Terry Nichols were arrested for the bombing. They claimed they were avenging the government's handling of the Waco and Ruby Ridge incidents. (The bombing occurred on the anniversary of the Waco incident.)

McVeigh was executed by lethal injection June 11, 2001. Nichols was sentenced to life in prison. A third conspirator, Michael Fortier, who testified against McVeigh and Nichols, was sentenced to 12 years in prison for failing to warn the U.S. government.

April 18, 2007: Supreme Court votes to uphold Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act by decision of 5-4

Part of the battle over abortions relates to health exceptions, which permit the procedure if the health of the mother is at risk. The 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, which declared many abortion restrictions unconstitutional, allowed states to ban abortions of viable fetuses unless an abortion was ''necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother.'' The court has never explicitly held that states must allow abortions of viable fetuses if necessary for the mother's mental health, but many read Roe as implying as much.

The Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, which became law in 2003, includes an exception to protect the life of the woman but bans abortions for non–life-threatening health issues. In 2004, abortion-rights organizations challenged the ban. Three district courts and three federal courts ruled the ban unconstitutional. The cases were appealed to the Supreme Court, which upheld the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act.

April 17, 1861: Virginia secedes from Union during Civil War

Virginia seceded from the Union on April 17, 1861, after Abraham Lincoln called for a response to the Confederate States of America attack on Fort Sumter. Virginia turned over its military and ratified the Confederate constitution in June 1861. The Confederacy then moved its capitol to Richmond. In 1863, 48 counties in northwest Virginia separated to form the state of West Virginia.

More Civil War battles were fought in Virginia than anywhere else, including the battles of Bull Run, Seven Days, Chancellorsville and Appomattox Courthouse. Virginia formally rejoined the Union Jan. 26, 1870.