- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 4, 2006

NICKEL MINES, Pa. (AP) — In most communities, a deadly school shooting brings demands for tighter gun laws and better security, and the victims’ loved ones lash out at the gunman’s family or threaten to sue.

But that’s not the Amish way.

As they struggle with the slayings of five of their children in a one-room schoolhouse, the Amish in this Lancaster County village are urging forgiveness of the killer and quietly accepting what comes their way as God’s will.

“They know their children are going to heaven. They know their children are innocent, and they know that they will join them in death,” said Gertrude Huntington, a Michigan researcher on children in Amish society.

“The hurt is very great,” Mrs. Huntington said. “But they don’t balance the hurt with hate.”

In the aftermath of Monday’s violence, the Amish are looking inward, relying on themselves and their faith, just as they have for centuries. They hold themselves apart from the modern world and have as little to do with civil authorities as possible.

Amish mourners have been going from home to home for two days to attend viewings for the five victims, all little girls laid out in white dresses made by their families. Such viewings occur almost immediately after the bodies arrive at the parents’ homes.

Typically, they are so crowded, “if you start crying, you’ve got to figure out whose shoulder to cry on,” said Rita Rhoads, a Mennonite midwife who delivered two of the five girls slain in the attack.

At some Amish viewings, 1,000 to 1,500 people might visit a family’s home to pay respects, said Jack Meyer, 60, a buggy operator in Bird in Hand. Such visits are important, given the lack of e-mail and phone communication, Mr. Meyer said.

The Amish have been reaching out to the family of the gunman, Charles Carl Roberts IV, 32, who committed suicide during the attack. Dwight Lefever, a Roberts family spokesman, said an Amish neighbor comforted the Roberts family hours after the shooting and extended forgiveness to them.

“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.

Mrs. Huntington predicted they will be supportive of the killer and his wife “because judgment is in God’s hands: ‘Judge not, that ye be not judged.’”

Roberts stormed the school and shot 10 girls before turning the gun on himself. Investigators said Roberts may have been planning to sexually assault the Amish girls.

Funerals for four of the victims — Naomi Rose Ebersole, 7; Marian Fisher, 13; Mary Liz Miller, 8; and her sister Lena Miller, 7 — are scheduled for today at three homes. The funeral for the fifth girl, Anna Mae Stoltzfus, 12, is tomorrow.

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