Unmediated apology letters welcomed by some of the relatives of 100 killed in fire.

The letter arrived this week at Dave Kane's home, a single page of unadorned cursive script tucked inside a small envelope.

He opened the letter and called his wife on the phone. Then he struggled through tears to read it to her.

"To Nick O'Neill's family and friends," the letter begins. "Please allow me to start by apologizing for the part I played in Nick's tragic death and for taking so long to convey this apology to you."

The author is Daniel Biechele, the former rock band tour manager whose pyrotechnics display at a concert at The Station nightclub three years ago started a fire that killed Kane's 18-year-old son, Nicholas O'Neill, and 99 others.

Biechele, who tearfully apologized in a packed courtroom last month before being sentenced to four years in prison, wrote personal letters to the families of all 100 people killed by the fire. The letters were written before the sentencing and are now being distributed by the state probation department to the families who want them.

Some who have received the letters say they are satisfied with Biechele's words, which have a remorseful tone and show that he accepts responsibility. In at least some notes, Biechele acknowledges that forgiveness may be impossible and that the pain of losing a child is unthinkable.

"I just believe it was sincere," Kane said Saturday in an interview at his home. "It was just real. It wasn't, 'I'll write this letter and the judge will take five years off my sentence."'

But others don't want the letters and think there is nothing Biechele could write that could soothe them.

"I have a lot of issues with Daniel Biechele," said Claire Bruyere, whose 27-year-old daughter, Bonnie Hamelin, died in the fire. "Unless he can say in the letter that he didn't kill my daughter, then I have no urge to hear what he says."

Though Bruyere did not want the letter, her relatives said she might want to read it one day, so she decided to have the note sent to her sister.

It was not immediately clear Saturday how many family members had requested the letters and how many did not want them. Unwanted letters will be returned to Biechele's lawyer.

Biechele was tour manager for the band Great White when he set off pyrotechnics during a concert at the West Warwick club on Feb. 20, 2003. Sparks from the pyrotechnics ignited flammable soundproofing foam around the stage, spreading flames through the club.

Biechele pleaded guilty in February to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter. Club owners Jeffrey and Michael Derderian are awaiting trial.

In a letter sent to the family of fire victim Tammy Mattera-Housa, 29, Biechele wrote that he would be "haunted" by his role in the fire "until the day that I die."

"The pain and suffering that so many endured is absolutely unthinkable," Biechele wrote. "If I had any idea that anyone would be harmed in the least I would never have used the pyrotechnics. I never wanted to place anyone in danger."

Leland Hoisington, whose daughter, Abbie, 28, died in the fire, said he was moved by Biechele's letter and was considering writing back to him. He said he felt sorry for Biechele and considered him a victim and the "only real man in this whole mess."

"What he had to say to us, he certainly didn't have to say it," said Hoisington, who declined to share what Biechele had written.

Kane said he still struggles to read the letter. Certain sentences particularly move him, such as, "No parent should ever have to suffer the agony of having their child pass away before they do, and yet it has happened here, partly through my own fault."

"The words about losing your child and how horrible it is kind of remind you of how horrible it is," Kane said.

Biechele told Kane in the letter that he didn't feel he could ask for forgiveness. But at the sentencing hearing last month, Kane told Biechele his teenage son would have wanted his family to accept Biechele's apology. Biechele wept as Kane spoke.

Kane and his wife, Joanne O'Neill, think Biechele might have met their son, a musician, since he was invited to hang out with the band on the day of the show.

O'Neill said she called her son and could sense the excitement in his voice.

"You're going to have a lot of stories to tell," she recalled telling him.

That was their last conversation.

(Article from the Boston Globe, June 3, 2006, By E.Tucker)

Disabled pupil "has won an apology" -having been excluded from party

A disabled pupil who was left out of an end of year party has won an apology from Hampstead School.

Zahrah Manuel, 18, was barred from attending the function onboard a boat on the Thames because it wasn't fitted with wheelchair access.

Made to feel like a second-class citizen, she took her case to a Special Educational Needs tribunal last month and won.

Zahrah, who has cerebral palsy and cannot talk or write but can communicate with her mum Preethi, said: "I was really upset. I'm really happy with the decision. I enjoyed some champagne."...

"You cannot say you are inclusive in name only as a way of getting some kind of kudos. You have to be practising it in everything you do and planning for it."...

Apologising to Zahrah and her family, a Camden Council spokesman said: "The disco is something the school has run for many years, and unfortunately on this occasion it was not possible to book a boat that was fully wheelchair accessible. The school looked to arrange an alternative trip, but Zahrah did not wish to attend.

"Although the Special Educational Needs tribunal felt more could have been done to make the trip accessible it found the school was an inclusive school and did not award any compensation."
(From Hampstead & Highgate Express, 3rd June)


An opinion from a Newsgroup- re "The "I want an apology" Generation"

The latest addition to the whining "I want an apology" generation are the families of those who drove towards and up Mt. St Helen 25-years ago as the damn thing was getting ready to erupt. When you see a mountain getting ready to boil over, you stay off. What is it with this generation that all feel they have "apologies" owed to them by society. We have the descendants of slaves that not only want official apologies, but also monetary reparations for events that happened anywhere from 130-250 years ago; we have American Indians who want apologies for the westward expansion of the United States and the so-called "loss" of their land; add to this list every other type of self-proclaimed "oppressed minority" who feel they deserve "apologies", and you end up with the biggest kettle of whining crying wimps the world has ever produced. The good people of the United States owe NOBODY an apology. The world should be thanking US for the bright light of democracy and freedom we have given to them.

"Wallowing in Apology"

I'm sorry. I made a mistake.

Don't ask me which one; I haven't decided. But confessing to mistakes is the best way to get attention these days.

Last week commentators had a field day over President George W. Bush's confessing to Iraq related-mistakes for the first time.

No one seemed to notice, however, that the president owned up to errors of diction - choice of words - such as "bring it on" and "dead or alive." For a president who has never claimed to be a wordsmith that is not exactly a soul-baring acknowledgement of error.

The Democrats, of course, have been after him to apologize for going to war in Iraq, for cutting taxes and for practically everything else he has done, including accepting the presidency from the hands of the Supreme Court in 2000.

Such demands are routine political ploys, but the media play along just as they did during the Clinton years when the president was called on to apologize for everything from lying about sex to sending the troops after Somali warlords.

Clinton's favorite apologies were somewhat less than contrite. He tended to say "Yes, mistakes were made." That, of course, is a long way from saying "I messed up."

It leaves the impression that this or that idiot in the president's office or family made the mistake and the president, as the person at whose desk the buck stops, is nobly shouldering the blame.

An even more striking example of the new obsession with apology is the case of the current (June 5) issue of Newsweek magazine, whose cover shouts "Rethinking the Marriage Crunch." The cover story amounts to a retraction of "The Marriage Crunch" in the June 2, 1986, issue of that magazine.

"Newsweek" editors and writers have been on every possible television venue from CNN and Fox and ABC to Dr. Phil - and, for all I know, ESPN and cooking shows - explaining repetitiously why their predecessors two decades ago were wrong.

In case you have been in a coma for the past couple of weeks, the gist of the matter is that the 1986 story sensationalized an academic study saying that "white, college-educated women who fail to marry in their 20s face long odds against ever marrying." (Current figures show that, if anything, the reverse is true.)

And, just to provide a piece of errant diction to really be sorry about, some underling had added to the 1986 story an intendedly humorous aside that a 40-year-old single woman "was more likely to be killed by a terrorist" than marry.

Certainly, looking back from a post-9/11 perspective, the comparison is in the worst possible taste, besides being a wild statistical exaggeration. But now this piece of errant diction has to be apologized for over and over and over, as does the fact that the demographic prediction at the core of the story was wrong.

I suppose that in the end all the groveling will benefit the Newsweek bottom line. But if we had to wallow in apology for every prediction that has gone wrong because the world or society has changed, we'd be doing nothing else.

Imagine your favorite TV meteorologist having to apologize every time it didn't rain when it was supposed to, or did when it wasn't. Suppose a minister had to apologize every time a couple he married filed for divorce? Or an economist had to apologize for being wrong about the next recession? Or a teacher for giving a slightly better or worse grade than a student deserved on a quiz?

Even worse, suppose all of us over-40s had to apologize for mistakes we made 20 years ago?

As Elbert Hubbard said, "The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing that you will make one." The second worst, according to Ed Corson, is to overdose on either apology or denial.
(Article by Ed Corson, The Telegraph,US Newspaper delivered across 32 counties)

Iraqi asks US for compensation & apology for Haditha victims

BAGHDAD, June 1 (KUNA) -- The Iraqi government asked the US administration Thursday for an apology and compensations for families of victims killed by US Marines in Haditha last November.

A government statement said it requested compensations for families of the 24 civilians who were killed in Haditha town, south of Baghdad, and offer a formal opology for the Iraqi government.

The government, added the statement, rejected such acts against the Iraqi people.

It said the human rights should be respected and those who committed the killings should be punished. (Kuwait News)

'Request' for Video Apology & $250K Donation to charity

Lindsay Lohan is keeping her cool, relatively speaking, about billion-heir Brandon Davis' bizarre videotaped tirade that ricocheted around the Web a couple of weeks ago.

If you missed it, the vid, shot outside a Hollywood nightclub, had Davis loudly slagging Lohan...Maybe Lohan is mad, but she's also getting even...

A week after the incident, Brandon sent a written apology, but Lindsay reportedly saw that as "too little, too late." Behind closed doors, Lindsay is reportedly demanding a video apology, as well as a $250,000 donation to a charity of her choice.

"The Man Who Apologizes Too Much"

In the United States these days, a lot of people have been carefully counting each new home run of San Francisco Giants slugger and alleged steroid-freak Barry Bonds as he advances past Babe Ruth’s historic achievement. It’s almost a national pastime here.

But in Taiwan people watch many times President Chen Shui-bian has had to apologize to the nation. And this has almost become Taiwan’s silly national pastime.

In Asia, to be sure, an official apology in general is not necessarily a bad thing. In small quantities, on rare occasions, it can demonstrate a sincere respect for public opinion, a proper sense of shame, and an appropriate attempt to regain dignity.

The most notable, recent example of a classic Asian apology actually took place in New York, where superstar baseball player Hideki Matsui apologized to management, teammates and to his many adoring fans for sustaining an injury that would keep him out of the lineup for months. Even though the injury was an accident, suffered during a game in a fearless effort to make a difficult diving catch, the proud Yankee wanted to say how sorry he felt to have to be removed from the battle.

On the other hand, sometimes the Asian apology, especially when they come in large numbers, month after month, year after year, are less personally ennobling than shameful. This is the case with President Chen, first elected by the good people of Taiwan in March 2000.

In these last six years Taiwan’s president has apologized something like 13 times for 10 different alleged broken promises, misdeeds or misconducts, the latter mostly attributed to family members.

One round of apologies revolved around his wife over allegations of illegal stock trading, another involved a relative accused of corruption, another hit his son-in-law.

This is getting embarrassing.

It is a dishonorable son-in-law drama that is on center stage right now, entertaining all of Asia and serving to remind the entire world that the Chen presidency, taken as a whole, has not exactly amounted to Taiwan’s finest moment. The latest: Chao Chien-ming, the husband of Chen’s daughter, was handcuffed and officially detained by law-enforcement authorities earlier this week on allegations of insider stock trading.

The apology scorecard was not nearly so over-the-top during the administration of Chen’s predecessor, President Lee Teng-hui -only six official apologies for five miscues in 12 years, according to one count.

And as Chen’s opposition is calling for resignation, his die-hard supporters point out that none of the corruption allegations have touched Chen personally. And, at this writing, the incumbent President Chen actually has not yet issued his 14th official apology.

But perhaps the world wont have to wait too long. It’s as if Chen believes that the more he apologies, the more credible he becomes. The apology becomes an act almost of spiritual rejuvenation and public redemption.
(Article from The Korea Times, written by Tom Plate)

Tom Stoppard despairs of "Contest of Apology" England

In Tom Stoppard's new play Rock 'n' Roll, opening at the Royal Court Theatre in July, the character Lenka tells Jan, "Don't come back (to England), the place has lost its nerve; they put something in the water since you were here. It is a democracy of obedience. They are frightened to use their minds....They apologise for history, they apologise for good manners, they apologise for difference: it is a contest of apology". Being interviewed by Mark Lawson (Front Row 2nd June) Tom Stoppard said "I do think that something has been put in the water between 1968 and 1990. I think the phrases for it "a democracy of obedience", "a contest of apology" -yes, there are things about England now which challenge my congenital anglophilia."

Ken Loach asks "Where is the apology for Empire?"

Interviewed in the wake of winning the Palme d'Or, the top prize at the Cannes film festival for his film, The Wind That Shakes The Barley, Ken Loach spoke of apology for empire. Asked by the interviewer, "When you spoke of the film being a small step in confronting Britain's imperialist past, what did you mean?"
Ken Loach replied: "Most people are aware that the empire was built on occupying other people's territories, taking their raw materials, subjugating them, taking our language and imposing it on them, and there are many cases of concentration camps and of various massacres in various other countries. I think we have been quite alarmed by the recent statement by people like Gordon Brown, saying that we didn't have anything to apologise for, for the empire. Well, I haven't heard anyone apologising anyway. But I think that is a re-writing of history that we just can't accept."
(From Radio 4's Today programme, 29th May, 8.10am)


No apology, say Irish Sisters of Charity

31 May 2006 20:16

The Superior General of the Irish Sisters of Charity has said her order would not align itself with other religious orders that have apologised in public for sexual abuse by non-members that took place in their institutions.

Speaking at the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse this morning, Sr Una O'Neill said she was deeply sorry that sexual abuse had taken place at St Joseph's Institution in Kilkenny.

She said other religious orders had apologised in cases where such abuse had been carried out by members of the order.

However, in the case of the Sisters of Charity, it was the abusers - who were not sisters of the order - who were responsible and should apologise.

Five complaints of sexual abuse have been made in relation to St Joseph's Institution in Kilkenny.

Three of these cases were taken to the High Court before the Redress Board was set up.

Damages of €370,000, €300,000 and €75,000 were awarded in these cases, one of which involved the abuser singing the song Nobody's Child while carrying out the abuse.

As these cases were begun before the Redress Board was set up, the State will pay the damages involved. (Story from RTE News) (For more context and support services for those who experienced abuse, click here)

Slavetrader decendant to wear yoke and chains to make Africa slavery apology

Written by Ebrima Jaw Manneh (in the Gambian Daily Observer)
Wednesday, 31 May 2006
Mr Andrew Hawkins from Plymouth, the United Kingdom, who claims to be a direct descendant of England’s first slave trader, Sir John Hawkins, will don yokes and chains at the forthcoming Roots International Festival in The Gambia to apologise for the actions of his famous ancestor.
He will be joining the lifeline expedition team, which has been journeying around with whites wearing yokes and chains while Africans and descendants of enslaved Africans accompany them. The Africans are also ready to apologise for selling their brothers and sisters to the European traders. This action is also a means of raising awareness of ongoing slavery and racism at the present time.

Sir John Hawkins is well known for his part in the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1587, but it is well known that he made slaving voyages with the support of Queen Elizabeth 1 between 1562-1568, sailing in ships such as the Jesus of Lubeck and the Grace of God.

The International Roots Festival commemorates the legendary Kunta Kinteh who according to a novel by Alex Haley was captured at Juffereh in The Gambia and held in the slave fort on James Island until he was transported to Annapolis in Maryland, USA, in a London slave ship, the Lord Ligonier. The lifeline expedition team aims to have representatives from the four European nations, Germany, Holland, France and England who at different times held slaves in the fort. They will kneel and make an apology in the yokes and chains in the fort.

Response to Europeans chained and yoked in a coffle like slaves

White people walking as penitent in chains through former slave ports such as Nantes, Bordeaux, Seville, Lisbon and Charleston South Carolina created considerable interest. They walk not as symbolic slaves; instead, the chains and yokes are the walkers’ chosen symbols of their penitence. There has been wide media coverage, but most importantly, this prophetic action has been well received by descendants of enslaved Africans. In France "Enfin!" was the most common word used. "At last, now we feel that white people are taking our story seriously. Thank you, but so much more needs to be done." Africans walking in the procession in attitude of forgiveness point to the potential for real reconciliation in the future.

Leader of the lifeline expedition, David Pott comments: "The Senegambia region is, of course, a most important region as far as the slave trade and its legacy is concerned. The roots of the system are located here because it was the closest region of Africa to Europe where substantial numbers of Africans were taken captive. The legacy of slavery is still much in evidence in terms of the ongoing poverty in Africa today. I am thankful that in spite of centuries of European oppression, Africa is not bowed down and contributes so richly in our world today. In order to heal historical wounds we must go to the roots, so I am very glad that we are able to come and take part in this significant Roots International Festival. We pray that we will be able to make our contribution in bringing healing and reconciliation." That is why we are coming here. (Story from The Gambian 'Daily Observer')