A bell outside a new Branch Davidian church rang 82 times Wednesday, once for each person who died during the fire seven years ago that ended the government siege of the religious sect's compound.
Nearly 300 people, many of them survivors and their relatives, packed into the chapel on the site of the former compound near Waco to remember those who died and to celebrate a new beginning.
As the bell rang, survivor Clive Doyle tearfully read the names and ages of the dead, including Davidian leader David Koresh and Doyle's 18-year-old daughter, Shari
Alex Jones, a radio talk-show host who organized the dlrs 92,000 volunteer effort to build the church, named Doyle a trustee during the dedication ceremony.
"Government can come and destroy the building but as long as there is one child of God, they cannot destroy the church," Doyle told the group.
Survivors also received a new flag to fly in front of the church. When the 51-day standoff between the government and the Branch Davidians ended in flames, federal agents took the sect's flag from atop the compound. The standoff was prompted by a gunfight between sect members and government agents trying to arrest the sect leader on weapons charges.
The fire happened several hours after the FBI tear-gassed the compound buildings. The government contends the deaths of the Davidians, whether caused by fire or gunshot wounds, came by their own hand.
Relatives of Branch Davidians have filed a wrongful-death suit against the federal government over the raid. A trial is scheduled to begin June 19.
Later in the day, former Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agent Robert Rodriguez, who infiltrated the group's compound before the siege, came to pay respects to agents who were killed at the compound, angering several Davidians.
"I didn't come here to cause problems with anybody. ... I came here to pay respects to my people," Rodriguez said.
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