03 October 2006

A county turned upside down.

I wrote briefly yesterday about a shooting in one of the local Amish schools. I first saw the news on my computer's homepage. There was one paragraph to the article. I then went to the website of a local TV station. They had more information. Click here to read what they have now. The evening newspaper today had a HUGE headline - and most of one section of the paper was about the school shooting.

This is one of those events that I know I will always have a clear memory of where I was and what I was doing when I heard about it.

I'm told that national newspapers and TV channels picked up this story, too. Pennsylvania's Governor was here (in the county) today to give a speech or something.

Let me tell you a little about the Amish. (You can click here to read more about them.)

First, there are different sects of Amish. Some are more strict than others. The group of people who sent their kids to the school where the shooting took place are Old Order Amish. They are the strictest. They don't drive vehicles. They travel in horse drawn buggies. Sometimes they will pay a person to drive them in a vehicle (long distances, or in the winter) - like a taxi service. They have no electricity or telephones in their houses. They don't use buttons on their clothing. They attend one-room schoolhouses. They take turns hosting church - there is no specific church building that they attend - they just go to each other's houses. They speak a form of German, commonly called "Pennsylvania Dutch". They call non-Amish people "English". They are a very close-knit group and it's rare for an English person to be invited into an Amish house. They are pacifists. They don't fly or have their picture taken. They don't "join the church" until they're young adults. They do not hunt, or join the military, or own guns. They take care of themselves.

I'm not saying that they don't have some of the same problems the rest of the world has. There is rape and incest and spousal abuse and even drug use. And "Amish" kids - before they join the church - tend to be pretty wild. The boys, especially, are encouraged to "sow their wild oats", because once they join the church, it's all straight & narrow. But the Amish community takes care of itself.

Yesterday, a man (who has three children ages 7 and under), went into an Amish schoolhouse, told all of the boys to leave the schoolhouse, barracaded the door, tied the hands and feet of the girls and shot them in the back of their heads. Apparently, he had planned on molesting them, but the police showed up & he had to act faster than he had planned. So he just shot them - and himself.

Here are some facts:

*5 girls are hospitalized - in several hospitals in PA and Delaware
*5 girls are dead
*2 of them died in the early hours of this morning
*The two who died this morning were 7 years old and 8 years old
*The other girls who died were 12, 13 and 7
*There were 10 families who sent their kids to this school
*7 of those families have a wounded or dead child
*The girls who were sent to the hospitals went by helicopter - the Amish don't fly, so the parents had to find someone to drive them to the hospitals
*Hours went by before the parents knew if their child(ren) were alive or dead. The Amish don't have their picture taken, so the parents had no images to give for identification of their child(ren).

This happened 5-10 miles from where I live. I cannot imagine not being able to go to the hospital with my child, and not even knowing if she's dead or alive. I cannot imagine having to decide to take my 7 year old off of "life saving" equipment so that she could die.

I can only imagine the hell all of the families are going through. The Amish families and the family of the man who did this.

The Amish community has set up two funds. One for the families of the school children. And one for the family of the man who shot their children.

I have to wonder if I could be so forgiving, if my child were dead? Would I be able to forgive the shooter? I do believe that I would see that his wife and children are victims of this, too.

Because of the actions of this man, his wife and children will have to deal with the hatred and insensitive comments of others. The Amish community is now in the national spotlight (which they do not like) and pictures of Amish people are being published all over the place (pictures - against their religion). Children are dead or traumatized.

The whole county has been turned upside down, because this could have happened at the school of anybody's child(ren). It could happen at any school. How do you look your child in the eyes and tell her that she's safe in her school - when you know, deep in your heart, that she's not safe at all? We usually tell our children that monsters aren't real. They don't have to be afraid of monsters, when, in fact, the biggest monsters are people, just like us.

That's all for now. I'm so sad and so troubled by all of the school shootings - it seems like they are more frequent than ever. And this one. Well, it could have just as easily been my daughter's school that this man walked into yesterday.

So hug your loved ones extra tight and be sure to tell them that you love them. :-)


Angel said...

It's always easier to watch the news and say "well, that's half the counrty over." and then deal with things. When the shooting happens in the next county over, it really hits hard. I'm in York and the news really hit. I don't think I could be as forgiving as the Amish are if someone harmed my daughter. I also feel very sad for the Gunman's wife and children, they are also victims in this.

I guess we just say a prayer everytime our little ones go to school and hope for the best.

Nancy Joyce said...

I have a great fondness for the Amish. We took a few school trips to visit "Amish Country" when I was a child. I'm so devestated by this because they try to live their lives so peacefully. It's simply horrible that the violence of our society should infect such an insular community as theirs.

Diane said...


Thanks for dropping in at my blog. I can't read much about this story anymore as I find it too disturbing. Though, I did your post.

As a parent, I find it frightening and quite disturbing that there are people in the world like this deliberately going after someone's child.

Despite these shootings, we tend to think that our children are safe at school. We can't be too careful and I feel that our schools cannot be too safe.

Their is a better way out there and we'd better find it before there is another one of these shootings.

My MIL lives in Lancaster and two of my sister-in-law's and their families live in the area. This hit close to home.

Anonymous said...

I'm so horrified by this! As you can imagine this really hit me hard. I grew up out there alongside the Amish just like you. I always thought it was neat to watch the buggies going down our busy street and then the line of cars following.
I think you wrote a wonderful post. I too feel soo sorry for the family of the man that did this. How does his wife feel? I can't even fathom it. Please give your family a hug-I know I've done that to my family a couple times just tonight.

Anonymous said...

It's amazing how the presence of the press is disrupting their whole community. And the situation is unimaginable.
Your post is so very well-written. You should consider submitting it to the newspaper, your perspective is shared by many.

Pennie said...

its horrible, but thank you for sharing, I don't know if I could be so forgiving. All are in my prayers. Enjoyed reading your blog too.

Lori said...

I also was terribly disturbed to hear this news - I grew up fascinated by and very admiring of the simple, peaceful Amish way of life. I'm disgusted at the way in which their world was, well, raped.

Some knitbloggers have come up with an interesting idea, to knit (from handspun yarn) shawls for the families of the victims. Check out their idea here and if you have any information (or time!) to contribute, I'm sure they would appreciate it.