The fire alarm, gunshots and piercing cries still ring loudly in Jake Glacer’s mind.
“There’s so much I still hear, I still see,” the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School junior told Fox News. “Four people in my class were shot. I couldn’t imagine going back into the building.”
A week after the Valentine’s Day massacre at the Parkland, Florida high school, students, administrators and lawmakers are now focusing on something more concrete: The future of Building 12, the three-story structure where 17 people were gunned down.
“I have four classes in that building, and I know that if I were to go back in there, all I would be able to think about is what we all heard and what we all saw,” student Kaelan Small told Fox News.
Some families are considering moving because it would be too “traumatizing” to step foot on campus again.
“It’s just something that makes you grow up really quickly, you know?” junior Josh Charo said.
The plan for now is to demolish the building, which has housed mainly the freshman class since it was built almost three decades ago.
“We’re working and have been working since we toured the site to tear down the building and put a memorial there,” said Florida State Sen. Lauren Book, R-Plantation.
Book described the building as a “war zone,” with blood smeared on walls and floors. She said keeping the infrastructure and just renovating the building is not an option.
“We are tearing that building down,” she said.
The school shooting in Newtown, Conn. sparked similar concerns over the future of the building. More than five years later, a memorial is still in its design phase. It took three-and-a-half years to build a new, $45 million elementary school in Newtown, according to former First Selectman Patricia Llodra. She spearheaded the process to decide the future of Sandy Hook Elementary School, holding a series of meetings for the community and elected officials.
Llodra urges Florida lawmakers and the school district not to rush the decision-making process. Instead, she said, they should take the time to involve the people of Parkland.
“It’s one of the most critical decisions the community has to make,” Llodra said. “It’s the first step in the recovery process.”
“The last thing I would have to say is tell the loved ones that are around you that you love them.”
Aztec High School in New Mexico took a different approach after its December shooting. Instead of demolishing the entire school, officials agreed on gutting two classrooms and transforming them into a lounge/memorial.
But the shooting there was on a much smaller scale – two people died, as well as the gunman.
Superintendent Kirk Carpenter said the decision made efficient use of the district’s time, space and money.
“To get a project like this done in a month’s time was absolutely amazing,” Carpenter told Fox News. “No one’s going to change what we do at that high school, and that’s to make sure learning takes place.”
Book admits demolishing Building 12, erecting a new building and implementing a memorial park on campus is a daunting task, especially with Florida’s legislative session nearing its end. Estimates for the proposal come in around $25 to 30 million, which would come from state appropriations.
Not to mention the freshman building on Marjory Stoneman Douglas’ campus holds about 900 students, a quarter of the school’s population.
The school, named after a women’s suffrage advocate, opened in 1990. It’s about two hours north of Miami.
Charo acknowledges it will be hard for the school to adjust without the building, saying it “doesn’t seem logical for them to tear it down.”
“I think going back to school is going to be helpful,” Glacer said. “We have to get used to the new normal.”
But, even considering this, Charo and Glacer can’t fathom returning to the place that carries memories of their worst day.
Lawmakers and school officials understand that.
The district is considering splitting up the school day into sessions to avoid using Building 12.
Students are expected to return to school on Feb. 27.
In the meantime, survivors said they are embracing each and every moment with their loved ones.
“The last thing I would have to say is tell the loved ones that are around you that you love them,” said junior Josh Gallagher. “Because you never know when it’s going to be cut short or life is going to be taken away.”
‘Today is the day I will die’ – Nun who opposed Myanmar military says she begged them for mercy | World News
A nun who knelt in front of armed security forces in Myanmar to stop them firing on civilians has said she was prepared to die to save protestors’ lives.
In extraordinary scenes in Myitkyina, Kachin State, Sister Ann Roza Nu Tawng can be seen pleading with police and soldiers not to shoot.
The intervention has been called Myanmar‘s “Tiananmen moment”.
In footage from 28 February, a shot can be heard after a nun is seen walking towards the heavily kitted-out officers.
Sister Ann Roza, 45, told Sky News she thought she would die but was prepared to sacrifice her own life to save others.
This is her story in her own words:
On Sunday, I was at the clinic. I was giving treatment on that day as the other clinics were closed. I saw groups of people marching by. They were protesting.
Suddenly I saw police, military and water cannon following the protesters.
Then they opened fire and started beating the protesters. I was shocked and I thought today is the day I will die. I decided to die.
I was asking and begging them not to do it and I told them the protesters didn’t commit any (crime).
I was crying like a mad person. I was like a mother hen protecting the chicks.
I was running towards where they were beating the protesters. It was happening in front of this clinic. It was like a war.
I thought it would be better that I die instead of lots of people.
I was crying out loud. My throat was in pain, too. My intention was to help people escape and be free to protest and to stop the security forces.
I asked them not to continue arresting the people. I was begging them. At that time I was not afraid.
If I had been scared and run away, everyone would be in trouble. I was not afraid at all. I was thinking of the girl from Naypyitaw and the one from Mandalay.
I was thinking of all the fallen souls from the country. I was worried what was going to happen to the people of Myitkyina.
When they reached the Banyan tree, I was calling them (the authorities) and telling them: ‘Please kill me. I don’t want to see people being killed.’
I was crying out loud and they stopped for a while.
One came to me and said: ‘Sister, don’t worry so much, we are not going to shoot them.’
But I told him: ‘They can also be killed with other weapons. Don’t shoot them. They are just protesters.’
In my mind I didn’t believe that they were not going to shoot them, as in many places I’ve seen they have shot people dead.
I brought (a protestor) to the clinic and gave him treatment. The police almost captured another one as he had fallen down. I stopped the police and asked them not to continue. That’s why the police didn’t. Otherwise, they would have arrested him and dragged him from there.
I feel like they (the military) are not the guardians of the people as you have seen what’s happening to the people.
People are not safe and there are brutal night arrests.
I felt really sad when I saw the video of a mother of a young one crying next to a dead body.
I also saw an ambulance was destroyed and medics were beaten with a gun.
They are supposed to protect us but our people have to defend themselves. It’s not safe. They (the security forces) arrest and beat those who they don’t like. They kill them.
There’s no one to protect Myanmar people.
People have to defend themselves and help each other.
Pope arrives in Iraq for historic first-ever papal trip to nation despite fears over security and coronavirus | UK News
The Pope has arrived in Iraq for an historic weekend visit which carries both symbolism and risk.
With a message of inter-faith tolerance, Francis will spend four days in Iraq in what is his first foreign trip in more than a year and the first-ever papal pilgrimage to the war-hit nation.
Francis, who wore a facemask during the flight, kept it on as he descended the stairs to the tarmac and was greeted by two masked children in traditional dress.
A red carpet was rolled out at Baghdad International Airport with prime minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi on hand to greet the pontiff.
A largely unmasked choir sang songs as the Pope and Mr al-Kadhimi made their way to a welcome area in the airport.
The Pope will visit the capital city Baghdad, the holy city of Najaf in the south, the ancient birthplace of Abraham at Ur and Mosul in the north, which became the capital of the so-called Islamic State (IS) in 2014 until its defeat in 2017.
Iraqis have been keen to welcome him and the global attention his visit will bring, with banners and posters hanging high in central Baghdad, and billboards depicting Francis with the slogan “We are all Brothers” decorating the main thoroughfare.
In a video address before leaving the Vatican, the Pope said: “I have greatly desired to meet you, to see your faces and to visit your country, an ancient and outstanding cradle of civilization.
“I am coming as a pilgrim, as a penitent pilgrim, to implore from the Lord forgiveness and reconciliation after years of war and terrorism, to beg from God the consolation of hearts and the healing of wounds.”
In Mosul, which was liberated from the Islamic State by the Iraqi military in 2017, the Pope will hold a vigil in Hosh al Bieaa (Church Square) where he will pray for the victims of war.
He will then head east to the town of Qaraqosh for a Sunday service of prayer and remembrance at the Immaculate Conception Church.
The church was one particular focus for the Islamic State’s widespread barbarism.
IS followers used the church courtyard as a firing range. Furniture, statues, bibles and prayer books were also burnt in the courtyard and a black mark on the ground marks the spot where the desecration took place.
Before the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, an estimated 1.5 million Christians lived in the country.
Today, only about 200,000 remain, the rest have been driven out by sectarian violence.
Reconciliation between Christians and Muslims is a key message and the Pope will hold inter-religious meetings on Saturday at Ur.
The archaeological site is thought to be the birthplace of Abraham, the patriarch of the three monotheistic faiths – Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
Among the most symbolic moments will be a meeting with Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani, the spiritual leader for millions of Shia Muslims and one of the world’s most influential Islamic scholars.
The two elderly men – the Pope is 84 and the Grand Ayatollah is 90 – will pray together in the holy city of Najaf. It is thought to be the first ever encounter between a pope and an Iraqi grand ayatollah.
The whole trip has been in jeopardy because of the dual threat of sectarian violence and the coronavirus pandemic.
Six weeks ago, two suicide bombers detonated bombs at a busy market in Baghdad killing at least 32 people. It was the first large-scale attack in the country for three years.
Followers of the Islamic State, who remain active in the country, are thought to have been responsible.
And this week, one person died after rockets hit a military base used by American forces west of Baghdad.
Militia aligned to Iran are likely to have been responsible – a retaliation for a US strike on Iranian militia targets along the Iraqi-Syrian border.
The coronavirus pandemic continues to hit Iraq hard with the country experiencing a new wave of cases.
Data from Wednesday showed 5,173 new cases with a seven day average of 4,095 cases a day. At least 13,000 people are known to have died after contracting the virus.
The Iraqi government has imposed new lockdowns and the Vatican’s own ambassador to Iraq, Archbishop Mitja Leskovar, announced on Sunday that he had contracted the virus.
But Vatican officials say the Pope has been determined that the trip should go ahead.
Francis has received a vaccine and the entourage of officials and journalists traveling with him have also been vaccinated.
Iraqi authorities say they are confident that the risks can be managed. Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni described the visit as safe and socially distanced.
“All the precautions have been taken from a health point of view… The best way to interpret the journey is as an act of love; it’s a gesture of love from the Pope to the people of this land who need to receive it,” Mr Bruni told reporters before leaving Vatican City.
The Pope will hold a mass in a football stadium in the Iraqi-Kurdish city of Erbil on Sunday and concern remains about how spontaneous crowds can be prevented from gathering at all the events.
Iraq only received its first batch of vaccines four days ago, with 50,000 doses of the Chinese-made Sinopharm vaccine donated by the Chinese government arriving on Monday.
The country has also agreements to receive vaccines in due course from AstraZeneca and Pfizer.
Analysis: This is a poignant trip for Christian communities who have suffered so much
By Mark Stone, Middle East correspondent
“We are all brothers” – the motto for this rather extraordinary papal visit to Iraq.
The words, from Matthew’s gospel, represent the central message the Pope wishes to carry with him on a trip that is full of symbolism and solidarity but jeopardy too.
With sectarian violence a continued danger across Iraq and coronavirus cases again on the rise, it’s fair to wonder, why now?
Aside from the officials and journalists within the papal bubble, almost no one who encounters the Pope on this trip, or mixes with other faithful followers at his various events, will have received a vaccine.
And the separate headache for the papal security detail doesn’t bare thinking about.
Nevertheless the trip has gone ahead. Pope Francis was determined it would.
The only other time a Pope tried to visit Iraq (John Paul II in 2000), a diplomatic falling out between the Vatican and then-President Saddam Hussein put a stop to it.
“The people cannot be let down for a second time. Let us pray that this trip can be carried out well,” Pope Francis said as he prepared for the visit.
Inter-faith solidarity and fraternity is a key focus for this Pope at a time when polarisation between religions is increasing especially across the Middle East.
On Saturday, the 84-year-old pontiff will meet another elderly man – Iraq’s Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani.
The 90-year-old Shia cleric is one of the world’s most influential Islamic scholars.
Two years ago, Francis was in Cairo for interfaith prayers and talks with Sunni Islam’s leading clerics, the grand imam of Cairo’s al Azhar mosque, Sheikh Ahmed al Tayeb.
The papal aspiration under Francis is a broad interfaith communion. He is being criticised for irresponsible timing but his people insist precautions for everyone are in place.
The trip strikes a particular poignancy for the Christian communities who suffered so much, so recently, at the hands of ISIS.
Other minorities suffered as well, of course – the Yazidis particularly, and Muslims too; anyone who didn’t buy into the Islamic State’s warped doctrine.
It’s remarkable that he will visit sites of such recent brutality. Remember the beheadings? The cages where people were burnt alive?
For communities of faith who lived through this, the visit will have real meaning.
Persecution of minority groups like Christians in Iraq didn’t begin with the Islamic State.
Over the past 20 years, the Christian population in Iraq has shrunk by 80% according to US State Department analysis.
An Iraqi census carried out in 1997 concluded that there were 1.4 million Christians in the country. Today there are less than 250,000.
Newly found ‘super-Earth’ could hold key to finding alien life | World News
A “super-Earth” located just 26 light years away could hold the key to finding extraterrestrial life.
At 430C (806F) and bathed in radiation, there is unlikely to be life nestled between the rivers of lava which are thought to burn across Gliese 486 b’s surface.
But – like Earth – the planet is made of rock and thought to have a metallic core.
And what gases are present or absent in its atmosphere could help scientists when looking at other planets for signs of life in space.
“We say that Gliese 486 b will instantaneously become the Rosetta Stone of exoplanetology – at least for Earth-like planets,” said astrophysicist and study co-author Jose Caballero of Centro de Astrobiologia in Spain, referring to the ancient stone slab that helped experts decipher Egyptian hieroglyphs.
The chemical composition of the atmosphere of Gliese 486 b could provide a contrast point for scientists to compare other planets to – any oxygen, carbon dioxide or methane would be notable, as those are present in our own life-supporting bubble.
“All that we learn with the atmosphere of Gliese 486 b and other Earth-like planets will be applied, within a few decades, to the detection of biomarkers or biosignatures: spectral features on the atmospheres of exoplanets that can only be ascribed to extraterrestrial life,” Caballero added.
A “super-Earth” is a planet heavier than our home planet, but smaller than the likes of Uranus and Neptune.
Gliese 486 b is thought to be about 2.8 times the mass of Earth – and 1.3 times the size.
Telescopes on and in orbit of Earth will be pointed at Gliese 486 b so more information about it can be gathered.
Gliese 486 b is in an ideal part of the sky to be studied, and is not too far away – just 26.3 light years (5.9 trillion miles) away.
More than 4,300 exoplanets – planets outside of our solar system – have been discovered.
Planetary scientist Trifon Trifonov of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany, is the lead author of the research published in the journal Science.
He said: “Gliese 486 b cannot be habitable, at least not the way we know it here on Earth.”
The planet orbits very closely to its red dwarf star, leaving it bathed in radiation. Its larger-than-Earth mass also means gravity on the planet will be about 70% greater than here.
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