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Workers raze school where Amish girls were killed

Story Highlights

• Heavy machinery called in to remove schoolhouse where 5 girls were shot dead
• Amish community seeking closure to horrific events of October 2, locals say
• Classroom had been boarded up since gunman went on shooting rampage
• Five girls wounded in Pennsylvania attack still being treated in hospital
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NICKEL MINES, Pennsylvania (AP) -- Workers using heavy machinery rather than hand tools early Thursday demolished the one-room Amish schoolhouse where a gunman killed five girls and wounded five others.

Construction lights glared in the mist as a backhoe tore into the overhang of the school's porch around 4:45 a.m., then knocked down the bell tower and toppled the walls.

Within 15 minutes, the building was flattened. By 7:30, the debris was gone. (Watch machines tear away chunks of the school -- :45)

The schoolhouse had been boarded up since the killings 10 days earlier, with classes moved to a nearby farm. The Amish planned to leave a quiet pasture where the schoolhouse stood.

"I thought there was widespread feeling in the community that it was important to remove the building," said Herman Bontrager, a Mennonite businessman who is serving as a spokesman. "Especially for the children, but not only for the children."

The Amish are known for constructing buildings by hand, without the aid of modern technology, but for this job they relied on an outside demolition crew to bring closure to a painful chapter for their peaceful community.

A group of 20 to 30 people, many of them in traditional Amish dress, gathered nearby to watch as the schoolhouse was leveled. One Amish man shook his head when asked if he would comment on the demolition.

"It seems this is a type of closure for them," Mike Hart, a spokesman for the Bart Fire Company, said as loaders lifted debris into dump trucks to be hauled away.

"I think the Amish leaders made the right decision."

The destruction of the West Nickel Mines Amish School came a week after the funerals for the five girls killed by gunman Charles Carl Roberts IV. Roberts came heavily armed and apparently prepared for a long standoff. He held the 10 girls hostage for about an hour before shooting them and killing himself as police closed in.

The five girls wounded in the October 2 shooting are still believed to be hospitalized. The hospitals are no longer providing any information about the patients at the request of their families.

Hart, who has been coordinating activities with the Amish community and whose company will help provide security, said private contractors were handling the demolition, and the debris would be hauled to a landfill.

He has said classes were expected to resume for the school this week at a makeshift schoolhouse in a garage on an Amish farm in the Nickel Mines area.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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A man and child walk past the site where the Amish school once stood.

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