Entries in Memorial (26)


Church to Protest at Memorial for Joplin Tornado Victims

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(TOPEKA, Kan.) -- A controversial church group will be protesting in Joplin, Missouri Sunday, May 29 when President Obama attends a memorial for those who lost their lives in last Sunday’s tornado that devastated the city.

On its website, the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas posted the headline, “Thank God for 125 dead in Joplin.”

Led by Pastor Fred Phelps, the group claims the tornado was retribution against Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, who supports laws that prevent members from picketing soldiers’ funerals.

The Westboro Baptist Church says that the death of U.S. troops is God’s way of punishing the U.S. for accepting homosexuality.

Last year, the group created more controversy by demonstrating at the funeral of Elizabeth Edwards, the wife of former U.S. senator and presidential candidate John Edwards.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


N.Y. Utility Boss Apologizes to Slain Soldier's Family for Flag Hanging Fee

Photodisc/Thinkstock(SHELTER ISLAND, N.Y.) -- The chairman of a New York utility company apologized Thursday to the family of a soldier killed in Afghanistan for charging a fee to hang American flags from their poles during a ceremony to honor him.

Howard Steinberg, chairman of the Long Island Power Authority, reached out to the family of Lt. Joseph Theinert a week after the memorial service in the small town of Shelter Island.

"We want to apologize to the family of Lieutenant Theinert," Steinberg said in a statement. "The trustees and I are all very upset about this. We do not support the idea of charging for flags to be hung on LIPA poles, nor do we approve of the way it was handled before it was brought to LIPA Chief Operating Officer Mike Hervey's attention. This will not be an issue going forward."

After the flag flap became public earlier this week, Hervey offered to pay the flag fee out of his own pocket.

Shelter Island held a memorial parade last Thursday to honor Theinert, a town resident who was killed in Afghanistan. The service included having members of Theinert's old unit march along a flag draped street that was named after Theinert.

Then they got the bill. LIPA charged them for hanging the American flags from its utility poles.

The resulting outcry prompted a change of heart from the embarrassed power company. Hervey spoke to the Theinert family on Tuesday in addition to offering to pay the $23.75 tab personally.

A LIPA spokesperson told ABC News that charging for the use of the utility poles was a state law. Drew Biondo, a spokesman for state Sen. Ken LaValle, told ABC News, "The law applies to for profit companies. Not local governments and municipalities. We think it's an over interpretation of the law."

According to Biondo, local politicians held a teleconference with LIPA's legal team late Wednesday. Lawyers from the power authority told them there is no need for corrective legislation. Both sides say they will continue discussing this issue and speak with officials in the state capital of Albany to get clarification on the interpretation of the law to resolve future situations.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Personifies Hope, Equality

Photo Courtesy - PRNewsFoto/MLK, Jr. Nat'l Memorial Project, Gediyon Kifle(WASHINGTON) -- As America celebrates Martin Luther King Jr.'s 82nd birthday Monday, the finishing touches are being put on a memorial to commemorate the man of dreams in Washington, D.C. near where he delivered his most famous speech.

The tribute to Dr. King changes the face of the National Mall. The MLK Memorial is in a direct line between the Lincoln Memorial, where he delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech, and the Jefferson Memorial.

After 25 years of fundraising, planning and organizing, the site is finally nearing completion. Two giant towers of granite representing the "Mountain of Despair" and the "Stone of Hope" stand along the banks of D.C.'s Tidal Basin. Etched in the "Inscription Wall" along the perimeter of the monument are over a dozen quotes from some of King's most memorable speeches.

The public unveiling is scheduled for Aug. 28, 2011, the 48th anniversary of King's "I Have a Dream" speech.

With a $120 million price tag, fundraising has been the largest barrier to completion of the memorial, said Dina Curtis, director of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project. The project still needs to raise $12 million to meet their goal, she said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


President Obama Seeks to Comfort Americans after Tragedy in Arizona

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(TUCSON, Ariz.) -- President Obama on Wednesday evening honored the six people killed and at least 13 injured in a mass shooting Saturday with a call for overcoming differences -- both political and personal.

"I have come here tonight as an American who, like all Americans, kneels to pray with you today, and will stand by you tomorrow," President Obama told the "Together We Thrive: Tucson and America" memorial service at the University of Arizona's McKale Memorial Center.

Among the injured when a gunman opened fire at a "Congress on Your Corner" event for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., outside a Tucson supermarket Saturday morning was Giffords herself. The congresswoman was shot at point-blank range in the back of the head and has been in critical condition ever since.

Obama revealed during his speech that, after he visited with her Wednesday, Giffords opened her eyes for the first time.

"Gabby opened her eyes, so I can tell you: She knows we are here, she knows we love her and she knows we are rooting for her throughout what will be a difficult journey," Obama told the cheering crowd.

The president and first lady were greeted by a standing ovation as they walked into the packed stadium. As he listened to the ceremony before speaking, the president was visibly emotional. Gifford's husband, Capt. Mark Kelly, sat in between the first lady and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano.

The president focused on the victims and encouraged Americans to live up to the expectations of Christina Taylor Green.

"Imagine: Here was a young girl who was just becoming aware of our democracy; just beginning to understand the obligations of citizenship; just starting to glimpse the fact that someday she too might play a part in shaping her nation's future," the president said. "She saw all this through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism or vitriol that we adults all too often just take for granted."

One by one, Obama honored each of the six people killed, who, he said, "represented what is best in America." They were Judge John Roll, Dorothy Morris, Phyllis Schneck, Dorwan Stoddard, Christina Taylor Green and Gabe Zimmerman, the only of Giffords' staff to perish in the shooting.

The president also praised "those who saved others" -- the nurses, doctors, policemen, staffers and bystanders who put themselves in harm's way to try and stop the shooter.

The president ended his speech where he began, honoring a victim:

Christina Taylor Green, he said was, "so deserving of our good example. If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate, as it should, let's make sure it's worthy of those we have lost. Let's make sure it's not on the usual plane of politics and point-scoring and pettiness that drifts away with the next news cycle."

The speech itself, just under 20 minutes, was a part of a broader, hour-long program called "Together We Thrive: Tucson and America." The somber event included music, moments of silence, prayers and other speeches.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


President Obama to Honor Tucson Shooting Victims

Photo Courtesy - The White House/ Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- In times of crisis and tragedy, Americans have turned to their president for leadership and words of reassurance.   At a memorial service Wednesday night in Tucson, Arizona, President Obama will try to help the nation make sense of a tragic shooting that took the lives of six innocent victims.

On Monday, Obama urged Americans to focus on the stories of bravery that came out of last Saturday's shooting, saying they speak to "the best of America, even in the face of such mindless violence."

"I think it's going to be important, I think, for the country as a whole, as well as the people of Arizona, to feel as if we are speaking directly to our sense of loss," the president said Monday at the White House, "but also speaking to our hopes for the future and how out of this tragedy we can come together as a stronger nation."

Obama is expected to focus on the victims, heroes and those in Tucson that have been impacted by the tragedy.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Crumbling JFK Gravesite Gets Facelift

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(ARLINGTON, Va.) -- Thousands of visitors come to Arlington National Cemetery each day to visit the tombs of John F. Kennedy and his family members and read the late president's legendary words engraved in a granite wall opposite the eternal flame: "Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country."

Now 45 years after those iconic words were etched into stone, the letters have faded and barely are legible to sightseers.

Restoration to the memorial wall began Thursday with the original stone mason, John Everett Benson, and a historical conservator, Gordon Ponsford, kneeling at the wall, painting fresh strokes into the lettering.

Just 25-years-old when he started work on the memorial wall, the now-71-year-old Benson still walks with a spring in his step and treasures his days of etching President Kennedy's famous words into history.

"Well, it's pretty monumental to begin with. The stones weigh 30 tons, so that's not a little thing," Benson told ABC News. "And we knew from the consequence of this appalling event that the memorial was going to play a fairly large part in the public mind and in the public presence here in Washington. I hadn't realized that people would still be coming here after 45 years, but I guess our lovely Jack Kennedy has become an icon."

The sprightly Benson, who is able to recite Kennedy's Inaugural address by memory, continues to work as a stone mason in Rhode Island.

Benson landed the job of erecting President Kennedy's memorial wall because his father's company was the only stone masonry still making letters entirely by hand for the application of monumental inscription.
Working with just two other men on the carving project, Benson spent much of his time worrying about the minutiae of the lettering.

"One of the tricks we have is to draw the letters like calligraphy, by hand -- no typefaces, no stencils, no computer cutting that stuff," he said. "We draw the letters with a brush the way it was done in Rome 2,000 years ago."

Benson joined Ponsford, the conservator spearheading the restoration project, to kick off the refurbishment of the wall.

Ponsford, who is tasked with cleaning and re-painting the letters of President Kennedy's Inauguration address, will work on the project for a week with one day dedicated to each panel of the wall.
Ponsford felt honored to have Benson at his side to begin restoration on the memorial wall.

"There's no doubt in my mind that I'm working with a legend," Ponsford told ABC News. "I'm equally as excited as working on this as working with John Benson."

The Knights of Columbus, of which President Kennedy was a member from 1946 until his assassination in 1963, is funding the restoration project. The nation will mark the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy's Inaugural address on Jan. 20, 2011.

But while the American people will remember Kennedy's Inaugural address for inspiring service among citizens, Kennedy's words will always be ingrained in Benson's mind in a different manner.

"His words are great, but when you draw an inscription, as I did with each one of these maybe 100 times, it takes on a totally different nature and ceases to be a piece of prose, a piece of verse, or a piece of speech," Benson said, "and it becomes an artistic artifact that you are doing your darndest to bring to its highest possible level."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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