- The Washington Times - Friday, April 1, 2005

PINELLAS PARK, Fla. (AP) — After all the loud protests and arrests, the end came quietly.

When word of Terri Schiavo’s death reached the demonstrators who had fought so long and passionately to prolong her life, many responded with silence, tears and disbelief.

Fifteen-year-old Harvest Bashta buried her face in her hands, tears running down her arms and onto the pages of the Bible she had turned to for solace.

“I just don’t want to believe it,” the high school sophomore from Chicago said as she sat in the grass outside the Woodside Hospice where Mrs. Schiavo lay for 13 days without her feeding tube. “It grieves my heart to know God’s heart is grieving.”

The crowd outside the hospice dwindled to a couple of dozen people by yesterday morning but swelled to more than 100 as news of Mrs. Schiavo’s death spread.

Susan George of St. Petersburg, Fla., wandered around, looking for a place to lay her offering of two white roses. “I’m so heartbroken about this,” she said, tears welling in her reddened eyes. “I wonder why there’s so much hurt in the world.”

Raymond Simmons of Tampa, Fla., had been one of the few people during the past two weeks who were willing to stand on the picket line and support Michael Schiavo’s decision to remove his wife’s feeding tube. He returned yesterday to take photographs and contemplate.

“I’m just glad it’s over,” the Army veteran said. “I hope the family can heal. I hope they can get together and help her find peace.”

The only outburst of the morning came right after the announcement. Michael Stafford of Hollywood, Fla., stood before the police who had arrested more than 50 people trying to bring Mrs. Schiavo water. He gave them the Nazi salute and shouted, “Heil Hitler!”

But for the most part, the circus-like atmosphere that had included flag-waving Cuban nationalists, sign-waving anti-abortion activists and even jugglers gave way to a scene of sadness and quiet contemplation.

The news did not filter through the crowd until nearly an hour after Mrs. Schiavo had died, and protesters blowing ram’s horns and saying the rosary continued their vigil, not knowing that she was already gone. Some people burst into tears and threw down the signs they had been carrying after her death was announced.

“You saw a murder happening,” said Dominique Hanks, who had ridden her motorized wheelchair around the hospice every day since Mrs. Schiavo’s feeding tube was removed. “Everybody who denied her right to live are accomplices to murder, and God knows.”

Upon hearing the news, Patrick Bautch of Milwaukee tossed away with disgust a sign that read “President Bush, Please Help Terri.”

“He could have done something,” Mr. Bautch said. “He was supposed to be for life and he neglected his role. … The value of human life has just gone down the drain.”

A few feet away, a small group burst into hymns, including “How Great Thou Art.”

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