Remembering the Heroes: The Flight 93 National Memorial
On Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001, the U.S. came under attack when four commercial airliners were hijacked and used to strike targets on the ground. Three of the planes hijacked by al-Qaeda on that day hit their high-profile targets: the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Nearly 3,000 people tragically lost their lives. Because of the actions of the 40 passengers and crew aboard Flight 93, who fought back against their hijackers, an intended attack on the U.S. Capitol was thwarted.
Former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, Vice-President Biden, state officials, bereaved relatives, artists and members of the public gathered Saturday to open a 1,500-acre national park on the outskirts of Shanksville (PA) that includes the partially completed Flight 93 National Memorial, in honor of the 40 passengers and crew members who died on United Airlines Flight 93.
The dedication of the memorial on Saturday, provided an opportunity for the two former presidents to appeal for unity. Neither George W. Bush nor Bill Clinton specifically mentioned the fractured state of relations in Washington. But their sharing of a stage and their comments here in the field where Flight 93 slammed into the ground stood in sharp contrast to the current state of divisive political discord.
Dedication of the New Shanksville Memorial
Former President Bill Clinton: Dedication of The Flight 93 National Memorial
On Tuesday, Pennsylvania voters chose between two bruised candidates after a grueling and nasty election fight. Hillary Clinton won the Pennsylvania primary vote as expected, claiming a 10-point victory over Barack Obama. With more than 80 percent of the electoral precincts reporting, Hillary had 55 percent of the vote to Obama’s 45 percent.
Nevertheless, Clinton still faces major challenges going forward: her campaign is essentially out of money, with unpaid bills piling up, and she faces growing frustration among some Democratic officials who would prefer her to end her campaign in recognition of Mr. Obama’s lead in the overall popular vote of the primaries and caucuses so far, as well as his continuing edge toward amassing the 2,025 delegates needed to secure the nomination.
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Obama Campaigns in Pennsylvania on the Final Day
In Evansville, after his Pennsylvania concession to Clinton, the Democratic presidential front-runner told supporters that he was able to narrow the gap in Pennsylvania, register a record number of voters and rally people of all backgrounds to his campaign. After the bruising Pennsylvania contest, Obama said bickering and tit-for-tat politics obscured the great issues of the day: two wars, a recession and a planet in peril. Watch the speech:
Obama’s Speech in Evansville, Indiana
NBC’s Chuck Todd pointed out last night that Clinton’s chances of winning the nomination based on pledged delegates is effectively over. If Obama keeps his pledged delegate lead to around 150, Clinton needs to win 70% of them on May 6 and, if not, 80% of them after May 6. That’s more than next to impossible.
NBC Report: Clinton’s Winning is Next to Impossible
35,000 Philadelphia Supporters Hail Obama’s Speech on Race
Barack Obama was greeted by the largest crowd of his campaign on Friday night in Philadelphia. It was the biggest gathering of Obama supporters that the campaign had ever seen, exceeding the 30,000 who greeted Obama and Oprah Winfrey in December in Columbia, S.C. An estimated 35,000 to 40,000 people pressed into Independence Park to hear the Democratic presidential candidate, four days before Pennsylvania’s crucial presidential primary on April 22nd.
Beyond the stunning fact that more people came out for Obama’s rally in front of Independence Hall than any other event since he announced his candidacy, there was a remarkable spontaneous demonstration of support that occurred when his speech ended. At least 5,000 people had nowhere to go but up Market Street. Obama’s charge of the night: “Declare independence!” was with them. They started with the familiar “O-Bam-A.” By 7th and Market Streets, they had graduated to “Yes we can!” By 10th and Market Streets, with hundreds of supporters streaming in between cars on the road, they were just cheering. At first, a few Philadelphia policemen cops tried to move the surging crowd to the sidewalks, but it didn’t work. The police finally retreated to the sidewalks, and a full mile away from Independence Park, the Obama crowd was still marching.
Barack Obama’s Philadelphia speech is now being hailed as one of the most powerful discourses on race ever given by a politician. Obama’s speech on race recognized that some blacks and whites still harbor significant anger and resentment. While condemning their hateful expression, he conceded that these feelings exist. Obama spoke from the heart, from his true experience of living in both our black and white cultures. His life, indeed his DNA, embodies a truly American experience. Obama mapped out his vision for getting beyond the distractions of race toward solving the real problems Americans face: the war, the economy, health, education and the environment.
Obama told the crowd that the United States is at a critical moment in its history, not unlike what the founding fathers faced in Philadelphia. “It was over 200 years ago that a group of patriots gathered in this city to do something that no one in the world believed they could do,” Obama said. “After years of a government that didn’t listen to them, or speak for them, or represent their hopes and their dreams, a few humble colonists came to Philadelphia to declare their independence from the tyranny of the British throne.”
The Illinois senator called Democratic rival Hillary Rodham Clinton a “tenacious” opponent but said that it was time to move beyond the old politics of the 1990s. Hillary Clinton “is a tenacious campaigner and is a committed public servant,” he began. But her message, he said, is “that we can’t really change the say anything, do anything special interest game of so we might as well choose a candidate who knows how to play the game.” He mocked her “kitchen sink strategy” and then stated, “I’m not running to be the president who plays the same old game. I’m running to end the game.”
Barack Obama: “A More Perfect Union” (Full Speech on Race)
With the Pennsylvania primary just six days away, Wednesday’s Democratic presidential debate in Philadelphia gave Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama a last chance to settle old and new scores as they headed into a week that could make or break their presidential aspirations. Clinton wanted to extend her five point lead in Pennsylvania, while Obama was trying to unveil a debate performance that reflects the recent national poll figures that show him surging way past Clinton in the areas of trustworthiness and electability.
During the debate, Obama and Clinton each defended their handling of missteps and misstatements on the campaign trail and directed sharp criticisms toward each other. They began their first head-to-head encounter in nearly two months focused on political disputes, rather than upon their relatively narrow policy differences. Obama, who leads in the number of delegates needed to claim the nomination, fielded tough questions about his relationship with his former pastor, his patriotism and his description of small-town voters as “bitter,” the latter a controversy that has engulfed his campaign for much of the past week.
Obama argued repeatedly that voters are smart enough to differentiate petty issues from important economic matters. “So the problem that we have in our politics, which is fairly typical, is that you take one person’s statement, if it’s not properly phrased, and you just beat it to death,” Obama said. “And that’s what Senator Clinton’s been doing over the last four days. And I understand that. That’s politics. And I expect to have to go through this process. But I do think it’s important to recognize that it’s not helping that person who’s sitting at the kitchen table, who’s trying to figure out how to pay the bills at the end of the month.”
Clinton addressed questions about voters’ deteriorating level of trust in her after her recent false claims to have ducked sniper fire during a trip to Bosnia. In perhaps her fullest explanations of her Bosnia gaffe to date, she noted she had already apologized and said that while she had gotten the details wrong, she was otherwise proud to have taken the trip. “I may be a lot of things, but I’m not dumb,” Clinton said. “I’m embarrassed by it, I have apologized for it, I said it was a mistake. It is, I hope, something you can look over.”
Clinton, who has been quoted as saying in private conversations that she does not think Obama can win the general election, made her clearest statement to date of her confidence in Obama. When asked whether Obama would win against Sen. John McCain, Clinton adamantly replied: “Yes, Yes, Yes.”
Obama responded by saying that he believes he’s better suited to beat McCain, that his ability to unify the electorate would be the key to winning in November. “When we are unified, there is nothing that we cannot tackle,” he said.
Hillary: “Can Obama Beat McCain? Yes, Yes, Yes!“
Read an article that is extremely critical of the debate’s moderators, as well as of the entire ABC News coverage of the Philadelphia Democratic debate, in this morning’s edition of The Washington Posthere.
And Greg Mitchell calls ABC News’ coverage of the debate A Shameful Night for U.S. Media in today’s Huffington Posthere.
It hasn’t a year for “models” on “Dancing with the Stars.” Plus, Albert Reed turned his Quickstep routine into a bizarre “skipping and prancing” shtick. So, the show dropped Reed on Tuesday night. The model’s dancing downfall seemed to come as a shock to both the judges and the audience.
Randy Pausch didn’t want his last lecture to be about dying. But he is, sadly, dying of pancreatic cancer. He knows it’s a painful way to go. When he gave his final lecture last month, he wanted to demonstrate that his focus remains, as always, on living, or on living in the process of dying.
A Photograph and remarkably unforgettable videos are included.
Charles Carl Roberts IV, a 32-year-old milk-truck driver carrying three guns and a childhood grudge, stormed into a one-room Amish schoolhouse on Monday, sent the boys and adults outside, barricaded the doors with two-by-fours and then opened fire on a dozen girls. Roberts killed some of the girls and critically injured others, before turning a gun upon himself and committing suicide. The latest reports state that six of the girls have died and the death toll might rise. Most of the children were shot execution-style at point-blank range after being lined up along the chalkboard inside the schoolhouse, their feet bound with wire and plastic ties. The shooting occurred around 10:45 a.m. on Monday in Nickel Mines, which is located in the heart of Pennsylvania Amish country.
On the evening of the shooting, Amish neighbors from the Nickel Mines community gathered to talk about their feelings of grief with each other and mental health counselors. According to reports by counselors who attended the grief session, the Amish family members grappled with a number of questions: Do we send our kids to school tomorrow? What if they want to sleep in our beds tonight, is that okay? But one question they asked might surprise outsiders. What, they wondered, can we do to help the family of the shooter? Plans were already underway for a horse-and-buggy caravan to visit Charles Carl Roberts’ family with offers of food and condolences. The Amish don’t automatically translate their grieving into revenge. Rather, they believe in redemption.
The Funeral Services
Funeral services for many of the children are being held on Thursday. In the aftermath of Monday’s violence, the Amish are looking inward, relying on themselves and their faith, just as they have for centuries. They hold themselves apart from the modern world, and have as little to do with civil authorities as possible. Amish mourners have been going from home to home for two days to attend viewings for the five victims, all little girls laid out in white dresses made by their families. Such viewings occur almost immediately after the bodies arrive at the parents’ homes.
Typically, they are so crowded, ”if you start crying, you’ve got to figure out whose shoulder to cry on,” said a Mennonite midwife who delivered two of the five girls slain in the attack. At some Amish viewings, upwards of 1,000 to 1,500 people might visit a family’s home to pay respects. Such visits are important, given the lack of e-mail and phone communication.
Update: In Thursday’s Amish funeral ceremonies, made even more touching and heartbreaking by centuries-old simplicity, four of the little girls were buried as the Amish of Pennsylvania turned the other cheek. With television and newspaper cameras kept at a distance, and police helicopters enforcing a no-fly zone overhead, one of the few non-Amish guests invited to the funeral of seven-year-old Naomi Rose Ebersole, the first little girl to be buried, was Marie Roberts, the killer’s wife.
With tears in her eyes, Mrs. Roberts sat in the back of one of the 34 black horse-drawn carriages that were part of the funeral cortege behind Naomi’s horse-drawn hearse. On the way from the church to the hilltop cemetary, the procession passed Mrs Roberts’ home where her husband, Charles, loaded up his guns before heading for the little village school on Monday.
On Saturday, Amish mourners joined family and friends for the funeral of the Pennsylvania truck driver who killed five Amish girls before taking his own life. Charles Carl Roberts IV was laid to rest in the graveyard of the Georgetown United Methodist Church, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. The cemetery is not far from the school where the shootings took place and the Amish graveyard where his victims are buried. The Amish who came to the burial gave condolences to Roberts’ wife and three children.
Also on Saturday, local Amish leaders met to discuss the future of the West Nickel Mines School. Mike Hart, one of two non-Amish members of a board set up to handle donations following the killings, said the plan is to build a new school in a different location.
As part of their traditional manner during times of crisis, the deeply-religious villagers of Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, turned inwards for support yesterday with prayers before, during and after each of the three ceremonies. As a Quaker, I have an empathic sense for the devout, private and quiet commitment to passivism and peace shared by members of The Old Order Amish. My kindest thoughts are with the Amish people as they embark upon the mutually reciprocal journey of healing themselves.
Milk Truck-Driver Kills at Least Three Children in Pennsylvania Amish Schoolhouse
Charles Carl Roberts IV, a 32-year-old milk-truck driver carrying three guns and a childhood grudge, stormed a one-room Amish schoolhouse Monday, sent the boys and adults outside, barricaded the doors with two-by-fours and then opened fire on a dozen girls. He murdered at least three of them (although updated accounts now substantiate that five girls have died) before committing suicide, and the death toll might rise. At least seven other children were critically wounded, authorities said. Most of the children had been shot execution-style at point-blank range after being lined up along the chalkboard, their feet bound with wire and plastic ties. The shooting occurred around 10:45 a.m. in Nickel Mines, in the heart of Pennsylvania Amish country. Not long afterwards, Amish women in plain blue smocks and simple white caps hugged one another in grief and shock outside the sunlit one-room school.
It was the nation’s third deadly school shooting in less than a week, and it sent shock waves through Lancaster County’s peaceful Amish country, a picturesque landscape of green pastures and “neat-as-a-pin” farms, where violent crime is virtually nonexistent. The shooting dragged the Amish, who normally seem stuck in an idyllic rural past of horse-drawn buggies and butter churns, straight into a national series of school attacks. “This is a horrendous, horrific incident for the Amish community. They’re solid citizens in the community. They’re good people. They don’t deserve … no one deserves this,” State Police Commissioner Jeffrey B. Miller said.
Roberts was not Amish and appeared to have nothing against the Amish community, Miller said. The attack bore similarities to a deadly school shooting last week in Bailey, Colo., and authorities there raised the possibility that the Pennsylvania attack was a copycat crime. The victims were members of the Old Order Amish. The shooting took place at the one-room West Nickel Mines Amish School, a neat white building set amid green fields, with a square white horse fence around the schoolyard. The school had about 25 to 30 students, ages 6 to 13.
According to investigators, Roberts walked his own children to their school bus stop, then backed his truck up to the Amish school, unloaded his weapons and several pieces of lumber and walked into the school at around 10 a.m. He released about 15 boys, a pregnant woman and three women with babies, Miller said. Then he barricaded the doors with two-by-fours and two-by-sixes nailed into place, piled-up desks and flexible plastic ties; made the remaining girls line up along a blackboard; and tied their feet together with wire ties and plastic ties.
Roberts apparently called his wife around an hour later, saying that he was taking revenge for an old grudge, Miller said. Evidently, he told his wife shortly before opening fire that he had molested young relatives decades ago and had “dreams of molesting again,” authorities said Tuesday. Despite his talk of molestation, though, and the discovery that he had sexual lubricant and flex-ties with him, police have no evidence that any of the victims were sexually abused, State Police Commissioner Jeffrey B. Miller said. “He states in his suicide note that he had dreams about doing what he did 20 years ago again,” Miller said.
Miller said police could not confirm Charles Carl Roberts IV’s claim about molesting young relatives when Roberts would have been a just a child himself, and he said Roberts’ family members knew nothing of molestation in his past. Roberts also left a note talking about his anguish over the loss of the couple’s newborn daughter nine years ago and how he was angry with God, Miller said. “It changed my life forever, I haven’t been the same since,” he wrote in a note the police released on Tuesday. “It affected me in a way I never felt possible. I am filled with so much hate, hate towards myself, hate towards God and unimaginable emptiness. It seems like every time we do something fun, I think abut how Elise wasn’t here to share it with us and I got right back to anger.”
In Pennsylvania’s insulated Amish country, the outer world has intruded on occasion. In 1999, two Amish men were sent to jail for buying cocaine from a motorcycle gang and selling it to young people in their community.