Thursday, October 05, 2006

TOPIC: Amish Community Bury School Shooting Victims
It was a solemn scene this warm Fall afternoon...
A procession of 34 buggies and carriages carried mourners to a hilltop cemetery in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, today as the Amish community buried the first of five girls killed by a gunman inside their tiny one-room schoolhouse.
Two state troopers on horseback and a funeral director’s black sedan with flashing yellow lights led the cortege, followed by a long horse-drawn buggy carrying the body of seven-year-old Naomi Rose Ebersol. The route wove past the home of Charles Carl Roberts IV, the 32-year-old milk truck driver who took the girls hostage Monday morning, tied them up and then shot them. One Amish man craned his head out a buggy window to look at the home.
It was the first in a series of funerals Thursday for victims of the West Nickel Mines Amish School shooting. All roads leading into the village of Nickel Mines were blocked by state police so the Amish could gather privately in homes to remember Ebersol; Marian Fisher 13; and sisters Mary Liz Miller, eight, and Lena Miller, eight. The funeral for a fifth girl, Anna Mae Stoltzfus, 12, is scheduled for Friday. Five other girls survived the schoolhouse attack but were seriously injured.
They know their children are going to heaven,” said Gertrude Huntington, a Michigan researcher who has written a book about children in Amish society. “They know their children are innocent ... and they know that they will join them in death. The hurt is very great,” Huntington said. “But they don’t balance the hurt with hate.
In just about any other community, a deadly school shooting would have brought demands from civic leaders for tighter gun laws and better security, and the victims’ loved ones would have lashed out at the gunman’s family or threatened to sue. But that is not the Amish way.
Dwight Lefever, a Roberts family spokesman, said an Amish neighbour comforted the Roberts family hours after the shooting and extended forgiveness to them. Among Roberts’ survivors are his wife and three children. “I hope they stay around here and they’ll have a lot of friends and a lot of support,” said Daniel Esh, a 57-year-old Amish artist and woodworker whose three grandnephews were inside the school during the attack.
Roberts’ relatives may even receive money from a fund established to help victims and their families, said Kevin King, executive director of Mennonite Disaster services, an agency managing the donations. Though the Amish generally do not accept help from outside their community, King quoted an Amish bishop as saying, “We are not asking for funds. In fact, it’s wrong for us to ask. But we will accept them with humility.
There is talk among the Amish of tearing down the schoolhouse, which is now boarded up, said Daniel Esh, 57, an Amish artist and woodworker. He said he is certain the community will decide to replace and not reopen the schoolhouse.
On the roads into Nickel Mines this morning, families in traditional Amish dress, broad-brimmed hats and bonnets walked on foot and travelled in horse-drawn buggies. The clip-clop of the horses was broken up only by the roar of official helicopters overhead enforcing a no-fly zone over the region.
The attack on West Nickel Mines Amish School began on Monday morning when Roberts took over the one-room school, sent the adults and boys out and bound the 10 remaining girls at the blackboard. He was in the school for about an hour before he shot his hostages and turned the gun on himself as police closed in.

This country would be a MUCH better place to live if we all were as humble and forgiving as the Amish people. God will bless them for being forgiving and loving towards all people -- especially Marie Roberts and her three children.

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