Courtesy Cape Girardeau Fire Dept.
Seven were injured when two trains collided and collapsed a highway bridge near Scott City, Mo., on Saturday morning.
Two freight trains collided and derailed early Saturday in southeast Missouri, then triggered the collapse of a highway overpass when several rail cars struck a support pillar.
Seven people were injured, including two personnel on the trains and five individuals in cars on the overpass on Highway M near Scott City, about 120 miles south of St. Louis, NBC affiliate KSDK reported. All the injured were hospitalized and listed in fair condition.
The collision occurred before dawn at a rail intersection.
"One train T-boned the other one and caused it to derail, and the derailed train hit a pillar which caused the overpass to collapse," Scott County Sheriff's dispatcher Clay Slipis told Reuters.
The crash, which involved BNSF Railway Co and Union Pacific trains, also ignited a fire when diesel fuel leaked from one of the train engines, Slipis said.
The crash came just over a week after a commuter train derailed in Connecticut, striking another train and injuring more than 70 people during the evening rush hour.
On Friday, a truck crash caused the collapse of a bridge in Washington state, sending two cars plunging into the Skagit River. Three people were rescued.
Reuters contributed to this report.
Barry Gutierrez / for NBC News
Limon librarian Lucille Reimer holds a historical photograph of the town bank destroyed by a 1990 tornado. The building was reborn as a library. See images of the town then and now.
One generation after a 206-mph tornado pulverized and vacuumed away most of the historic downtown and damaged one-third of the homes in Limon, Colo., librarian Lucille Reimer has a small hitch in her voice when she describes the initial dawn after the storm, the first day of revival.
“The most amazing site. The sun was coming up. People were just starting to move around. And I saw them — hundreds of police cars, all coming in to help,” recalled Reimer, who was a reporter for the local newspaper, The Limon Leader, when a June 6, 1990 twister nearly scraped away the little village of about 2,000 people in eastern Colorado, injuring 17 people, displacing hundreds, yet killing none. "Seeing all those flashing lights arriving, well, it still gives me shivers."
Over the past 23 years, Limon has reinvented its look, retained much of its population and reclaimed its status as a stout plains anchor where stranded travelers find friendly shelter when white-out blizzards close the nearby interstate highway. The town has returned to its reputation as a plucky refuge after enduring a short spell as a place in desperate need of extra hands.
The same ragged roadmap — reconstruction and resurrection — has been followed repeatedly in towns slashed or decimated by house-chewing tornadoes. They’re still rebuilding in Joplin, Mo., where on Wednesday residents paused in silence to mark the second anniversary of the twister that claimed 161 people. And they’re mourning again in Moore, Okla., which lost 36 people in a 1999 twister and where searchers this week combed the carnage from Monday’s tornado that took another 24 lives.
Looking back, some parallels can be seen when comparing the early renaissance of Limon and the ongoing recovery in Joplin. One year after the catastrophic storm struck Joplin, officials there had erected a new hospital to replace a destroyed medical center. Thirteen months after the Limon tornado, workers had built a new town hall and a new fire station.
But there are difficult contrasts as well. Joplin received $1 billion in federal aid to help reassemble. Limon — which sustained $25 million in damage — did not receive a similar federal disaster designation despite its near destruction. Why?
"Nobody got killed," said Joe Kiely, Limon's assistant town manager. After the storm, he drove to Limon from his home in Fort Morgan, Colo., 80 miles to the north, to volunteer in the cleanup for one weekend. He stayed for three weeks and later was offered the job of Limon's recovery director. "We used primarily state money, insurance dollars, and donations from the public."
The big rebuild
More than two decades later, much of Limon barely resembles its pre-storm form. Small trees, planted along the downtown sidewalks during the early 1990s, now are fully mature and starting to leaf out for summer. Limon’s new town hall was constructed with a modern flair. In all, some 350 building permits were pulled there in the months after the big winds.
Barry Gutierrez / for NBC News
Joe Kiely, 60, stands in front of the new town hall that replaced the old one destroyed in the 1990 tornado in Limon, Colo.
At his town hall office, Limon town manager Dave Stone scans an old photo of the four-block downtown sector taken before the twister. He counts nine buildings that today are gone, including a bank, two restaurants, the local newspaper's former office, a corner gas station, a vintage hotel, the fire station — and the old town hall.
"The downtown area is drastically different," said Stone, who grew up there. Leaving after the tornado, he adds, "never crossed my mind."
"I wanted to make sure that town did sustain itself," Stone said. "I don’t know that anybody picked up and left town. Essentially, they stayed here and worked together to reconstruct the community."
Like any town, Limon has had its comings and goings, its births and deaths during in the past 23 years. But U.S. Census figures back Stone's point: In 1990, there were 1,831 residents; in 2010 there were 1,880.
While memories of an eerie aftermath remain thick for many folks — the brick rubble, the contorted metal sheets sheered from dozens of mobile homes, the odd chill that filled the darkness after the super cell passed — it is the warmth of what followed that locals prefer to recount.
The launch of the big rebuild seemed to be signaled by that incoming parade of squad cars witnessed by Lucille Reimer. They came from Colorado cities and little burgs to the west, south and east. They followed the twister’s precise path, right down Main Street, where many of the town's businesses, about 80 percent of the local commerce, were ruined or heavily impacted.
'Not one homeless person'
With security re-established by visiting cops, food became the next necessity. The twister hit just after 8 p.m. on a Wednesday. Normally, trucks pulled in on Thursdays to replenish the local grocery’s shelves. A grocery store in the neighboring town of Hugo, Colo., offered to let those same rigs offload their perishables in its backrooms there so that Limon’s hungry residents could drive over to restock their pantries.
But restoring city services — including hooking up utilities and finding temporary headquarters for the police department, ambulance service, government offices and the post office — quickly became priority number one. Simultaneously, anyone with a spare bedroom took in some of the hundreds of people who had lost their homes. In all, 228 of Limon's 750 dwellings were damaged.
“On Monday morning, when FEMA came to town, there was not one single homeless person,” Reimer said. “Because people took care of their own.”
Some merchants had extra, empty commercial space located away from the ravaged town core, and they offered their storefronts or unused locales to friends and colleagues whose businesses had been blown away, Reimer said.
Soon, the Army National Guard thundered in to knock down rickety buildings then shovel up and haul away the massive stacks of debris. Before winter 1990, Limon was free of loose bricks, splinters and metal shards.
'All kinds of progress'
Compare that to Joplin, Mo., where the 2011 tornado took out 553 businesses in a town of about 50,000 people. One year after that storm, 446 of those businesses had re-opened. Today, road signs ripped from the ground have been replaced. Three new schools are being constructed.
"We've made all kinds of progress, just phenomenal progress. I've never seen anything move so fast in my life: new buildings where the old buildings used to be, and businesses, homes, apartments where the old ones all used to be," said Aaron Miller, who owns Midwest Storm Shelters, a local company that constructs residential tornado shelters and safe rooms. His crew has installed at least 600 such units in Joplin since the devastating storm.
"But there's still empty lots. Being a lifetime resident, I can say it's not the same. It doesn't look the same. Besides the buildings being different, the trees are gone. Joplin was just beautiful for its big trees (before 2011). Now, you might pull up to what used to be a nice shady intersection that had trees growing over the road, and there's just a street light there."
Joe Raedle / Getty Images file
The top photo of this composite image shows family members salvaging what they can from a home after it was destroyed when a massive tornado struck on May 22, 2011, in Joplin, Mo. The bottom photo was taken one year after the tornado, and shows the destroyed buildings and rubble have been removed and new homes have been built.
Unlike Limon, Joplin sustained mass casualties. And those missing friends and family members cast a personal shadow over Joplin that may take generations to fade, that no physical rebuilding boom can begin to pave over or replace.
"We've put storm shelters in for people who have lost family members. We'll put a storm shelter in, now and then, for somebody that has lifetime scars, where you can tell they were in the tornado — scars on their arms, their legs, even their face. They'll tell you: We were in the tornado," Miller said. "We've had a catastrophic loss of life."
'A new sense of pride'
Limon’s full re-emergence took about five years, estimates Reimer, now the head librarian and treasurer of the chamber of commerce.
Local contractors who for years had doggedly competed, trying to outbid and out-hustle each other for jobs, began working side by side to ensure the fastest possible restoration, including resurrecting Limon's grocery store. The overriding spirit on the ground, Reimer said, was marked by "looking out for one another."
“It all just gave our community a new sense of pride to kind of change an old town to a new look, a perk up,” she said. "Small towns just take care of themselves like that. But we also had a lot of generous help.
“Limon always had a reputation of being there when people needed us — whenever they closed the highway (Interstate 70) during the blizzards, when the wind is blowing and people have nowhere else to go. So people here just take them in. It’s what we do," she said. "But after the tornado, they came in and they took care of us.”
EPHRATAH, N.Y. -- A small airplane operating as a volunteer Angel Flight crashed into a pond in upstate New York on Friday evening, killing at least two people, authorities said.
Fulton County Sheriff Thomas Lorey said the flight's two passengers were found dead and investigators are searching for the pilot, who is missing. Officials did not immediately identify the passengers or pilot.
The Piper PA 34 airplane originated in Massachusetts and crashed about a half-mile west of Caroga, N.Y., just after 5 p.m. Friday, Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said.
Lorey said the twin-engine plane crashed in a wooded area in Ephratah, about an hour west of Albany.
"The bulk of the plane is in the water, in a pond, completely submerged and we have to wait until daylight to put divers in," the sheriff said.
Larry Camerlin, president and founder of Angel Flight Northeast, a nonprofit group that arranges free air transportation for sick patients from volunteer pilots, said the organization was "tremendously saddened" by the tragic news of the crash.
"We all offer our thoughts and prayers to the families of those affected," Camerlin said in a statement. "Our volunteer pilots are the most compassionate and generous individuals who donate their time, aircraft and fuel to transport patients and loved ones for free to essential medical care that would otherwise not be readily available to them. There are no words that can adequately express our sorrow."
An employee at an ice cream shop in nearby Johnstown who refused to give her name said she heard what sounded like engine failure and then a loud explosion, "like a gun shot."
She said she went outside and "there were pieces of airplane coming out of the sky."
The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the crash, including what the weather conditions were like at the time of the accident.
At the time of the crash, in Rome, N.Y., visibility was 10 miles, there was slight rain and winds of about 13 to 14 mph, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Brian Montgomery.
The flight departed from Hanscom Field in Bedford, Mass., and was headed to Rome, N.Y., before crashing about 57 miles to the east, near Caroga, according to Bergen.
Camerlin's statement said that since Angel Flight NE was founded in 1996, the group has set up free air transportation and medical care for more than 65,000 children and adults on about 60,000 flights covering a total of more than 12 million miles.
-- The Associated Press
In an exclusive interview with Rock Center's Kate Snow, the principal and members of the faculty of Plaza Towers Elementary School describe the deadly tornado that turned their Oklahoma school into a debris field. The teachers recount the disaster that left seven students dead.
By Becky Bratu, Kate Snow, Tim Uehlinger and Jay Kernis, NBC News
As she tours the husk of Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, Okla. -- the little that was left behind after a powerful tornado shredded everything in its 17-mile path -- Principal Amy Simpson thinks back to Monday morning, when her biggest task was helping the sixth-graders get ready for their graduation ceremony.
Pre-K teacher Linda Patterson and aide Kaye Johnson were working on report cards, while kindergarten teacher Erin Baxter was having her 6-year-old students write about the weather.
Four miles to the east, Susie Price began the last week of her 41-year career in public education preparing her retirement speech, getting ready for graduation -- and watching the sky for any possible threats.
“That’s what we do in Oklahoma on those days,” Pierce, the Moore Public Schools superintendent, told Rock Center’s Kate Snow.
Hours later, a Category EF5 tornado would touch down killing 24 people, injuring more than 370 and destroying as many as 13,000 houses.
Amy Simpson, the principal at Plaza Towers Elementary, remembers the seven students who died in the tornado that swept through the Oklahoma school. Rock Center's Kate Snow reports.
Sixteen minutes. That was how long Pierce had to prepare between the time she heard that a tornado had hit the ground and the time Moore was in the middle of it.
“It's not a lot of time,” she said. “But because I know these people and I know everybody that works in our district. … we've been through this before. I know that they know what to do.”
“This is part of our reality,” Pierce added.
Simpson was on alert after receiving an email from the district office about an incoming storm. Not long after, she heard the thunder.
The storm began getting heavier with hail that pummeled the school’s skylights. Then sirens started going off.
It’s not uncommon to hear sirens in Oklahoma, but she knew she couldn’t take any chances.
“Get into your places,” Simpson said over the school’s loudspeaker system.
“They know exactly what that means,” she said. “It means hallways, bathrooms, the safest places in the building."
In an exclusive interview with Rock Center's Kate Snow, Plaza Towers Elementary School Principal Amy Simpson breaks her silence on the Oklahoma tornado that destroyed her school and left seven children dead. She describes recently reuniting with the students who survived the disaster and the students' resilience. Snow's full report with Simpson, three of her fellow teachers and the school's superintendent airs Friday, May 24 at 10 pm/9CDT on NBC's Rock Center with Brian Williams.
The kids got on their knees. They put their heads right up against the hallway brick wall and covered the backs of their necks with their hands and their heads with their backpacks. To keep calm, teachers led them through the ABC song and “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”
Baxter, the kindergarten teacher, could hear the storm coming.
“It’d get louder. And you'd think it would be about to hit. And then it'd just get louder and just louder,” she recalled.
By that point, teachers were using their bodies to protect the children. Right before impact, Simpson got on the loudspeaker one last time.
“It’s here,” she remembers saying, before quickly ducking into a bathroom as the tornado smashed into the building.
“At first, it's just a rattling, like someone walking on the roof. And then you feel things fall into your hair. Just little things, you know? Nothing more than if somebody was up there fixing the air conditioning unit,” she said. “And it's -- but then all of a sudden-- bigger things. Could hear the air duct crash down and a pipe. … And that's when I started to yell.”
"In God's name, go away. Go away,” Simpson remembers yelling.
As she climbed out of the debris, Simpson noticed most of the walls around her were gone.
In a different part of the building, Patterson, the pre-K teacher, was pinned under a wall, some 2-by-4s and a car the tornado had spun up and dropped on top of the collapsed wall.
“I'm hearing the child under me saying, ‘I'm not breathing. I can't breathe,’ because I had weight on her, you know?” Patterson recalled.
“That's where I needed to be. I needed to be between that debris and those children,” she added.
Rescuers poured into the school, pulling kids and teachers from the debris, but Simpson noticed none of the third-graders had come out.
Third-grade teacher Jennifer Doan, who was just finishing her second year in the classroom, had just found out she was pregnant. Now Doan was shielding two boys with her body, trying to hold up a collapsed wall, Superintendent Pierce said.
“The little boy said, ‘Can't breathe. I don't want to die.’ And as [Simpson] said, they pulled Miss Doan out and that little boy,” Pierce said. The second little boy was buried by debris and didn’t make it.
Simpson said Doan could hear other children crying. “And she was hearing crying, and crying, and crying. And then after the tornado, the crying stopped. And it's -- what she said was, ‘The crying was horrible, but when it stopped, it was worse.’”
Of the seven children who died at Plaza Towers Elementary, six were in Doan’s class. The teacher suffered multiple injuries, but her unborn child is fine. Her friends say she’s been told about the children’s deaths and is overcome with grief.
“God makes our choices for us long before, and he had a plan long before,” Simpson said. “And those little ones, there was no control over it. There wasn't a safer place. There wasn't a better place. There wasn't anything different that Miss Doan could do.”
This weekend, bulldozers will roll in to clear away what remains of Plaza Towers Elementary – but Simpson said the only way to move on and process the loss is to rebuild.
“We have a million and one things to do,” she said. “So staying busy is a big part of that.”
Editor’s Note: If you would like to help the Moore Public Schools, click here ( www.Fundly.com/moorepublicschools ) or write to this address:
Moore Public Schools Tornado Relief Fund
1500 SE 4th
Moore, OK 73160
NBC News' Sylvie Haller, Sabrina Esposito, Jessica Kerry and Michelle Kessel contributed to this report.
Mark Farmer / AP file
Workers lower a ground-based missile interceptor into its silo at Fort Greely near Delta Junction, Alaska, on July 22, 2004.
An Army battalion commander at the Space and Missile Defense Command at Fort Greely, Alaska, is under investigation for allegedly "condoning" adultery and creating an "open season" climate when it comes to sexual activity among the troops, military and defense officials tell NBC News.
As of now, there appear to be no allegations of sexual assault involved in the investigation. The sources report there are allegations that an officer or officers had sexual relations with female soldiers under their command.
Consensual relations with a subordinate would still be a violation of regulations.
The commanding general ordered the investigation upon learning of the allegations.
Fort Greely is near Delta Junction in the Alaskan interior. It is a launch site for anti-ballistic-missile missiles, and because of the bitter winters there it is home to the Cold Regions Test Center.
The Department of Defense has been ramping up efforts to fight sexual assault within the ranks. Earlier this month, the department said that the number of cases increased sharply in the last year. The military has also been hit with a number of high-profile cases within units that investigate sexual abuse.
In Congress, there have been a number of proposals to address how the military investigates and prosecutes sexual assault cases.
On Friday, President Obama called on graduates of the Naval Academy to “live with integrity” and help restore trust in a military.
“Those who commit sexual assault are not only committing a crime, they threaten the trust and discipline that make our military strong,” he said at the graduation ceremony in Annapolis, Md.
Jim Miklaszewski is NBC News' chief Pentagon correspondent. Courtney Kube is NBC News' Pentagon producer.
This story was originally published on Fri May 24, 2013 11:02 PM EDT
Nearly 200 former Prisoners of War were reunited at the Nixon Library where they were first honored four decades ago. NBC's Mike Taibbi reports.
By Aarne Heikkila, Producer, NBC News
YORBA LINDA, CALIF. -- It was 40 years ago that hundreds of Vietnam-era Prisoners of War were saluted at the biggest White House dinner ever following their release in a prisoner exchange. Richard Nixon was president then, and on Friday at the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, Calif., nearly 200 of those P.O.W.'s came together once more.
Charles 'Chuck' Boyd was held for seven years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam. After his release, Boyd went on to become a four-star general in the U.S. Air Force. He reflects on his time as a hostage, the bond he forged with his fellow prisoners, and the gathering this week at the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, Calif.
Below, we've posted some of the archival photos from the original event, which took place on May 24, 1973.
Here, President Nixon and his wife, Pat Nixon, sing "God Bless America" with Irving Berlin, the original composer of the song.
There were about 600 Prisoners of War that night in the State Department Auditorium. At the time, it was the largest dinner ever held at the White House.
Nixon Library and Museum
One of the men being welcomed home was future Arizona Sen. John McCain, who had been a P.O.W. for six years.
Oliver F. Atkins / Nixon Library and Museum
President Nixon shakes hands with Lieutenant John McCain in the receiving line at a welcome home ceremony for returned POW's in the State Department Auditorium.
The veterans were accompanied by wives, mothers and significant others.
White House Photo Office Collect / Nixon Library and Museum
Also in attendance: Julie Nixon Eisenhower and her husband, David Eisenhower.
White House Photo Office Collect / Nixon Library and Museum
President Nixon and his wife Pat entertained the crowd by singing "God Bless America" alongside Irving Berlin, the original composer of the song.
White House Photo Office Collect / Nixon Library and Museum
The next day, Col. John Dramesi gave President Nixon an American flag made from handkerchiefs and scraps of material that he created while in captivity. The Dramesi flag has since become a symbol of the POW ordeal, according to the Nixon Library.
Nixon Library and Museum
Laura Segall / Reuters file
Maricopa County (Ariz.) Sheriff Joe Arpaio announces a new school security plan on Jan. 9.
PHOENIX -- A federal judge ruled Friday that the office of America's self-proclaimed toughest sheriff systematically singled out Latinos in its trademark immigration patrols, marking the first finding by a court that the agency racially profiles people.
The 142-page decision by U.S. District Judge Murray Snow in Phoenix backs up allegations that Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's critics have made for years that his officers rely on race in their immigration enforcement.
Snow, whose ruling came more than eight months after a seven-day non-jury trial on the subject, also ruled Arpaio's deputies unreasonably prolonged the detentions of people who were pulled over.
"For too long the sheriff has been victimizing the people he's meant to serve with his discriminatory policy," said Cecillia D. Wang, director of the ACLU Immigrants' Right Project. "Today we're seeing justice for everyone in the county."
Stanley Young, the lead lawyer who argued the case against Arpaio, said Snow set a hearing for June 14, where he will hear from the two sides on how to make sure the orders in the ruling are carried out.
A small group of Latinos alleged in their lawsuit that Arpaio's deputies pulled over some vehicles only to make immigration status checks. The group asked Snow to issue injunctions barring the sheriff's office from discriminatory policing and the judge ruled that more remedies could be ordered in the future.
The sheriff, who has repeatedly denied the allegations, won't face jail time or fines as a result of the ruling.
The sheriff said his deputies only stop people when they think a crime has been committed.
A spokesman for Arpaio deferred requests for all comment to the lead attorney in the case, Tim Casey, who declined comment until reading the judge's full decision.
Arapio, who turns 81 next month, was elected in November to his sixth consecutive term as sheriff in Arizona's most populous county.
Known for jailing inmates in tents and making prisoners wear pink underwear, Arpaio started doing immigration enforcement in 2006 Arizona voters grew frustrated with the state's role as the nation's busiest illegal entryway.
Rick Bowmer / AP
A Davis County law enforcement official walks from the garage Thursday at a home where two young boys were found dead Wednesday night in West Point, Utah.
A 15-year-old boy is in custody after authorities investigating the stabbing deaths of his younger adopted brothers found him miles away with traces of blood on him, officials said.
He was arrested Thursday in the deaths of the boys, ages 4 and 10, at the family home in a Utah subdivision of new houses and tidy lawns, police said.
"He spoke bluntly with our investigators," said Davis County Sheriff Todd Richardson.
County Attorney Troy Rawlings said he wasn't prepared to file charges. He was trying to find out more about the boy and killings that stunned the community, about 30 miles north of Salt Lake City.
Officials described the older brother as an honor student and a long-distance runner on the track team — when his mother wasn't home-schooling him, while neighbors said he was socially awkward with a speech impediment.
"I'm still in shock," neighbor Karin Jackson said Thursday. "This is a wonderful neighborhood and the kids are usually outside playing."
The younger brothers died from knife wounds following the attack, according to a preliminary report by the medical examiner, and the 15-year-old allegedly acted alone, apparently on an impulse, Richardson said.
At first he was thought to be a third victim, missing from the crime scene, and police publicized his name while looking for him. The Associated Press is withholding his name because of his age.
"There are more questions than answers at this point," Rawlings said. "This teen in custody has a presumption of innocence. Facts are being gathered to assist with critical decisions."
The 15-year-old and his two younger brothers had been left home alone. The family has six children, and police said their mother took the other children to a dance recital, returning to find first one body, then another. Their father, reportedly a Department of Defense engineer, was away in Alabama.
Nobody was at the home throughout much of Thursday, when the home was cordoned off by police tape, and the parents couldn't be reached.
Four of the family's six children are adopted, and neighbors spoke highly of them.
But the 15-year-old was "different," said Scott Green, an ex-neighbor who said he once found him throwing dozens of rocks over a fence onto his trampoline.
The father is an engineer working for the Air Force, Green said. At first, authorities said he was active duty military, but later said they weren't certain about his status with what they believed was the Air Force. The couple had spent time in South Korea before moving to Utah, Green said.
The 10-year-old adopted boy spent a lot of time at his house, playing with Green's daughter — "best of pals," he said.
The 15-year-old was enrolled as a ninth grader at West Point Junior High, member of the National Honors Society and a distance runner on the track team, Davis School District spokesman Chris Williams told The Salt Lake Tribune and KSL-TV.
Williams said the youths' parents moved them in and out of public school over the years, sometimes home-schooling them.
Neighbors interviewed by The Associated Press were unanimous: The 15-year-old kept to himself and wasn't seen except when jogging.
"We never had a history file on him, except for the time he did a runaway," Richardson said.
It was two or three years ago, police and neighbors said. After a 7-hour search, according to the Standard-Examiner of Ogden, police found him four miles away at a Wendy's restaurant, KSL reported.
The sheriff said the 15-year-old had undisclosed, minor injuries when found late Wednesday walking along a street in nearby Layton. The injuries were consistent with having been involved in an attack, said Richardson. He declined to elaborate.
"It's very sad," said Lindsey Caballero, a young mother who lives directly across the street from the suspect's home. "It's scary. It goes to show you never know what's happening."
Richard Freeda for NBC News
Dave Knapp, 86, was a district scout executive for 10 years, and decades later he was asked to return to recruit other adult leaders. He picketed in front of every BSA council office in Connecticut to protest the membership policy.
GRAPEVINE, Texas -- After years of dedication to an organization that ultimately didn't want them, former gay adult leaders with the Boy Scouts of America were elated to see the group finally accept openly gay youth. But the moment was tinged with bitterness, because as gay adults, they remain stuck on the outside.
Members of the BSA cast the historic ballots on Thursday to change the controversial membership guidelines that had dogged the organization in recent years.
“It's a very strange feeling because I think we feel like we've had a great victory, but we still realize that … when we go back to our respective hometowns, we're still not going to be welcome as adults. We're still going to be discriminated against. So as pleased as we are that something has happened, clearly we were left out of this and will continue to be left out for some time,” said Greg Bourke, 55, of Louisville, Ky., who was forced to resigned as assistant Scoutmaster of Troop 325 last year over his homosexuality.
“It's bittersweet … and it's frustrating, but it's also motivating because we now have this sense that the BSA is finally willing to change and they've taken the first step,” he added.
Dave Knapp, of Guilford, Conn., was a district scout executive for 10 years, and decades later he was asked to return to recruit other adult leaders. He said he realized he was gay later in life.
“I was elated and weary (by the decision) because I've been fighting them since 1993. … I felt like I was David against Goliath,” said the 86-year-old Knapp. “How can one person, even with all the help of all the organizations, combat this ... most prestigious youth organization in the country?”
Knapp's method of choice was public protest. He picketed in front of every BSA council office in Connecticut.
Jennifer Tyrrell, 33, a lesbian who was ousted as den leader from her son's Tiger Cub pack in Bridgeport, Ohio, used the Internet to get her message out, as did Bourke.
As the controversy over the gay ban grew last year, first with Tyrrell's ouster in April, then Bourke's in August and then that of a gay California teen denied his Eagle rank in September, the group of former Scout volunteers turned LGBT activists found each other.
“What I think is interesting ... is the way our stories unfolded independently,” Bourke said. “I knew the policy was out there but I really wasn't aware of” the movement to let gays to join. “I was just out there because my son … wanted to be a Scout and my troop needed people to be leaders,” he added, echoing Tyrrell's path to the Cub Scouts for her son Cruz.
Though Bourke can still participate informally as a parent, he -- like the others -- misses the deeper connections to Scouting he used to have.
“We have this crazy dichotomy where we've been harmed by this organization irreparably and yet we have to defend it all the time and tell everyone how great it is,” Bourke said.
Tom Pennington / Getty Images
Activists, including Greg Bourke, second from left, and Jennifer Tyrrell, to his right, deliver boxes containing 1.4 million signatures urging the Boy Scouts of America to reverse the organization's ban on LGBT Scouts on February 4, 2013 in Irving, Texas.
“So we're promoting Scouting ... because I believe in it,” Knapp said, noting he still tries to do a "good turn" every day, referring to the Boy Scouts' motto of doing a good deed daily. “My mother lived to be 99. I'm 86. So I'm hoping that before I get to be 99 (they let gay adults in). And I tell everybody I'm going to fight till the day I die. I'm not going to give up.”
The fight has taken its toll. Tyrrell said it was hard to hold down a job with the demands of an ongoing campaign.
“God knows, I've definitely wanted to bow out a lot of times," she said. "It's so mentally and physically draining. Like I said we've literally put out life on hold.”
Yet she carries on: “I feel attached to the people that have reached out to me saying thank you for speaking when I couldn't ... All of those people I feel obligated to. I feel obligated to Cruz (her son) to teach him that we do not back down from people that try to tell us that we are lesser than anyone else.”
Tyrrell said she has severed ties to her former pack, and she won't go back to Scouting until all families are included.
But Bourke, whose son Isaiah, 15, is a Scout, still participates informally.
“I definitely have come to admire his dedication,” Tyrrell said. “I think it takes a stronger person to stay involved.”
Bourke said he stayed because he wanted to dispel the myth that some harm would come from gays serving as adult leaders. Next week, he will lead the Scouts on a charity walk over three days that he has organized for five years.
Though it's at times difficult to stay on, he does so because he wants “to continue to demonstrate to people that an openly gay person can function as a Scout leader because I'm still basically doing almost everything I used to do before and no harm comes from it,” he said. “No children are damged in any way, they still look to me as a leader. I'm just trying to prove that this model works ... It's okay, world, to have a gay scout leader. It's possible, it's being done.”
NBC News' Miranda Leitsinger and radio talk show host Michael Smerconish discuss a decision by the Boy Scouts of America to lift a ban on openly-gay Scouts.
If you are a current or former member of the Boy Scouts and would like to share your thoughts on how your troop, pack or council is handling the change in the membership policy, you can email the reporter at email@example.com. We may use some comments for a follow-up story, so please specify if your remarks can be used and provide your name, hometown, age, Boy Scout affiliation and a phone number.
Elaine Thompson / AP
The north end of the Interstate 5 bridge crossing the Skagit River lies collapsed in the water on Friday, in Mount Vernon, Wash. A truck carrying an oversize load struck the four-lane bridge on the major thoroughfare between Seattle and Canada, sending a section of the span and two vehicles into the Skagit River below Thursday evening. All three occupants suffered only minor injuries. At an overnight news conference, Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste blamed the collapse on a tractor-trailer carrying a tall load that hit an upper part of the span.
The Washington state bridge collapse that spilled two cars into the Skagit River could give Americans pause as they hit the roads for Memorial Day holiday travel.
With good reason.
This weekend, millions will cross 66,000 bridges that the federal government has deemed "structurally deficient," meaning key elements are in poor condition.
The Federal Highway Administration hastens to note that label doesn't mean they are unsafe or in danger of collapse, but transportation advocates say it highlights a growing crisis of aging infrastructure, deferred maintenance and rebuilding, and design flaws.
"We don't expect an epidemic of collapses — that's the extreme," said Dan Goldberg, communications director for Transportation for America, a coalition that identified the busiest deficient bridges in the nation in a 2011 report.
"We are going to see probably some more of this, but the more likely scenario is contending with the issues of decay that happen before the collapse."
Big potholes, weight restrictions and lane closings are some of the inconveniences bridge users face unless reconstruction and replacement is ramped up across the nation, Goldberg said.
The Interstate 5 bridge in Mount Vernon, Wash., which apparently crumpled after being hit by an oversized truck, was not on the Federal Highway Administration's structurally-deficient list.
Famed spans aren't the problem. San Francisco's Golden Gate, for instance, is in pretty good shape. The Brooklyn Bridge is undergoing a massive rehabilitation project to correct its deficiencies.
But hundreds of less glamorous bridges — many of them generic overpasses that take commuters over cross streets or other highways — remain vulnerable.
Here are six crossings, together used by more than 1 million vehicles each day, that don't make the grade:
A view of I-695 crossing over Liberty Road in Maryland in August 2012.
I-76 over Klemm Ave. in Gloucester, N.J.: The deck and superstructure are in poor condition on this 11-lane interstate overpass that dates to 1956. More than 191,000 vehicles use it every day, and $30 million has been earmarked for deck replacement.
IS-695 over Milford Mill Road in Baltimore, Md.: Built in 1961 and reconstructed in 1979, this eight-lane overpass on the Baltimore Beltway has a deck and substructure in poor condition. But good news for nearly 190,000 vehicles that cross each day: It will be replaced in a two-year project starting this summer.
Halona St. Bridge in Honolulu, Hawaii: Built in 1938, this slab bridge over the Kapalama Canal is not slated for replacement until 2019. Some 184,000 vehicles travel the two-lane crossing, which has a deck and substructure in poor condition.
A view of the I-70 bridge over Havana Street in Denver, Colo. E-17-JP
I-70 over Havana St. in Denver, Colo.: This 10-lane structure, which has a deck and substructure in poor condition, is slated for a rebuild in the next few years. Built in 1964 and reconstructed in 1978, it services 183,000 vehicles a day.
I-278 approach to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in Staten Island, N.Y.: On an average day, 182,700 vehicles take this overpass to a majestic double-decker bridge. The substructure of the two-lane approach, built in 1961, is in poor condition.
I-95 over Hendricks Ave. in Jacksonville, Fla.: The deck is in poor condition on this nine-lane section of interstate that handles 121,000 vehicles a day. Built in 1959 and reconstructed in 1989, it is undergoing a replacement.
Source: Information about the structures was compiled by Nationalbridges.com, a website that analyzes data in the Federal Highway Administration's national bridge inventory.
A section of the Interstate 5 bridge over Washington's Skagit River collapses, sending cars into water below. NBC's Chris Daniels reports.
Ibragim Todashev is seen in 2009 at the Massachusetts gym where Boston bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev trained.
The friend of Boston bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev who law enforcement forces said was shot and killed Wednesday after being questioned by the FBI about a brutal 2011 Boston-area homicide was a promising if somewhat forgettable mixed martial artist, fellow practitioners of the sport said.
Chris Palmquist, who operates the official registry for amateur and professional MMA fighters, said Ibragim Todashev, 27, fought his matches under the name Ibrahim Tody. “I don’t know if it was an alias he gave or if it was just a misspelling. Or a promoter could have entered him,” said Palmquist, who fought Todashev once in a competition about four years ago.
There was “nothing that stood out” about Todashev when the two faced off in a 2009 New England grappling competition, a video of which is online.
In another video from 2009, this one showing an MMA bout at American Steel Cage Fighting in New Hampshire, the man who was shot on Wednesday strides into the circular ring to the thumping bass of Cypress Hill’s song “Rock Superstar”: “You want to be a rock superstar and live large / A big house, five cars, you’re in charge.”
The announcer introduces him as “hailing” from Chechnya, a “freestyle fighter” with a “perfect amateur mixed martial arts record with four victories in all four of his bouts.” Before the start of the three-round fight – which Todashev would lose – two bikini-clad card girls circle the ring.
Courtesy of Gary Marino
Ibragim Todashev weighing in at a 2009 mixed martial arts competition in Salem, New Hampshire.
Todashev is credited in that video with fighting for Wai Kru, the same gym in Allston, Mass., frequented by Tamerlan Tsarnaev. The man’s father, Abdul Baki Todashev, told NBC News in a phone interview from Chechnya that his son and Tamerlan Tsarnaev “went to the same gym for boxing classes.”
His son and Tsarnaev, the older bombing suspect who was killed in a shootout with police, “never were close friends,” he said.
Mixed martial arts is a popular, full-contact fighting sport in which competitors use boxing and martial arts skills combined with grappling and wrestling moves to defeat their opponent. The introduction of the Ultimate Fighting Championship brought mixed martial arts to greater attention in the United States in the early 1990s.
A matchmaker who organized the 2009 fight in New Hampshire, Gary Marino, said he remembered Todashev from the Wai Kru gym and the weigh-in before the bout.
“I remember that kid, the way he looked at me was weird, he kind of looked right through you,” Marino said. “He was very quiet but he kind of looked right through you like he didn’t know what you were talking about.”
Palmquist also trained MMA fighter Evan Scott, who fought Todashev in his last sanctioned amateur MMA bout. Scott beat the 5-foot-9, 160-pound Todashev with an armbar submission in the second round.
“You get a fair mix of guys who come from solid backgrounds, and then you get guys who probably shouldn’t be fighting already but just kind of jump in there,” Palmquist said. “He was definitely a pretty good amateur fighter. He definitely came from some kind of wrestling background.”
Todashev fought a total of six sanctioned amateur matches, winning four and losing two, according to his official MMA record. He fought one unsanctioned amateur bout in February 2012, and one sanctioned professional bout in July of that year, winning both.
Todashev applied for a mixed martial arts license with the Florida State Boxing Commision on July 26, 2012. On an application for a national MMA identification card filed on the same day, he wrote that he had four years of experience in the sport. The Florida license was issued in August 2012 and expired in December of that year, according to the state department of business and professional regulation.
He spent at least some of that time training at The Jungle MMA and Fitness, a gym that bills itself as “Central Florida’s Premier Spot” for MMA training. He did not fight any matches through the gym, according to staff there.
AP Photo / Orange County Corrections Department
In this May 4, 2013 police mug provided by the Orange County Corrections Department in Orlando, Fla., shows Ibragim Todashev after his arrest for aggravated battery in Orlando. Todashev, who was being questioned in Orlando by authorities in the Boston bombing probe, was fatally shot Wednesday, May 22, 2013 when he initiated a violent confrontation, FBI officials said.
“He was here for about maybe two months about a year and a half ago,” said gym manager John Morehouse.
Todashev was “pretty unmemorable,” Morehouse said. “You know, your basic guy, come in, take a class. I don’t think he had any friends here.”
Law enforcement sources have said Todashev had two prior run-ins with the law and had confessed to involvement in a 2011 triple murder before he was shot. People familiar with MMA said if he did have a violent past, it’s not typical of the sport’s practitioners. Most amateur and professional fighters are no more violent outside the ring than anyone else, they said.
Mark Tullius fell into the world of amateur MMA after graduating with a degree in sociology from Brown University. After being active in the sport from 1998 to 2002, Tullius abandoned it because he was “turned off by the violence,” he said. Over the past year, he has traveled to 15 states and interviewed more than 250 mixed martial arts fighters to figure out what makes them tick.
“Ninety-five to 97 percent of them are just awesome people,” Tullius said of the fighters and their coaches.
“I think when a lot of people go to the gym, they’re looking for something they’re missing,” Tullis said. “There are lots of different kinds of fighters. Lots of today’s fighters are wrestlers who are just super competitive and are looking for another way to compete.”
While pro MMA matches are regulated, amateur competition often goes on with little oversight, according to Gregory Sirb, executive director of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission and former president of the Association of Boxing Commissions. Amateur mixed martial arts competitions are banned in West Virginia, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Colorado, and North Dakota, according to the ABC. Bouts at the amateur level go on completely unregulated in 11 states, the organization says.
“It’s horrible,” Sirb said. “For a sport that’s so violent – this sport screams for oversight.”
While amateur match-ups may not be heavily regulated by the states, experienced fighters tend to have their own code of conduct, Tullius said, an ethic Todashev violated in at least two incidents when he appears to have used his fighting abilities well outside the ring.
"Some places will say if you get into a fight you're not training here," Tullius said. "And a professional would not want to do that."
Todashev was arrested in Boston in 2010 after aggressively confronting two women following an accident involving his van and their car, the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office told NBC affiliate WHDH. There were no injuries and no charges were pressed, authorities said.
He was arrested a second time this year, for aggravated battery on May 4, after allegedly getting into a fight with a man and his son over a parking space in Orlando, according to an Orange County Sheriff’s Office arrest affidavit. Todashev told officers he was a mixed martial artist before being transported to the booking and release center, according to the affidavit.
“This skill puts his fighting ability way above that of a normal person,” the arresting officer wrote in the affidavit.
Todashev was released the next day on a $3,500 surety bond.