- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 5, 2006

GEORGETOWN, Pa. (AP) — A procession of 34 buggies and carriages carried mourners to a hilltop cemetery yesterday 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 Naomi Rose Ebersol, 7.

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.

It was the first in a series of funerals yesterday for the 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 Naomi; Marian Fisher, 13; and sisters Mary Liz Miller, 8, and Lena Miller, 7.

The funeral for the fifth girl, Anna Mae Stoltzfus, 12, was scheduled for today.

Relatives of Roberts’ wife said yesterday that the Fisher farm was a regular stop on his milk route.

“We knew that family very, very well,” said Jacquie Hess, an aunt of Roberts’ widow, Marie. She said the Fishers had invited Mrs. Roberts to their daughter’s funeral, but she didn’t know whether the widow would attend.

Marian Fisher’s sister was among five female students who survived the schoolhouse attack but were seriously injured.

County Coroner G. Gary Kirchner said he had been contacted by a doctor at Penn State Children’s Hospital in Hershey who said doctors expected to take one girl off life support so she could be brought home. Dr. D. Holmes Morton, who runs a clinic that serves Amish children, said yesterday that the reports that a 6-year-old had been taken off life support and brought home to die were accurate “as far as I know.”

“I just think at this point mostly these families want to be left alone in their grief, and we ought to respect that,” Dr. Morton said.

In Lancaster County, there have been prayer services for the victims at area churches, but the traditional funerals for the girls were closed. About 300 to 500 people were expected at each, said funeral director Philip W. Furman.

Amish custom calls for simple wooden caskets, narrow at the head and feet and wider in the middle. An Amish girl is typically laid to rest in a white dress, a cape, and a white prayer covering on her head, Mr. Furman said.

The girls’ families, Amish neighbors and friends are coping with the slayings by looking inward, relying on themselves and their faith, just as they have for centuries, to get them through what one Amish bishop called “our 9/11.”

“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 who has written a book about children in Amish society.

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

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