Four weeks ago, Lancaster was once again the topic of conversations around the US and even the world. This occasion due to the tragedy of one man going into an Amish schoolhouse and killing school age girls before killing himself. As it has faded into the near memory for some, it is still quite fresh in the minds of those closest to the tragedy.
For me living in Lancaster, PA, twenty minutes from where it happened, I'm often reminded when I see an Amish man or woman. Although it's painful to remember what happened, I am reminded by the amazing grace of the response of the Amish community towards the killer's family. We forgive him...why?...because we have been forgiven much...
It is a good reminder for me because I have been forgiven of much as well...and may I never, by the grace of God, forgot that one truth...
Below, I found a local article giving an update on all those involved. Can I encourage you to offer a prayer for the familes of the victims, including the Robert's family? Marie, Charles' wife is as much as a victim in this tragedy as well. In your prayers, praise God for his sovereignty and for providing the troopers, emergency medical personnel, firefighters, helicopter operators, doctors, nurses and everyone who was or has been involved in the tragedy. Pray for the first responders and troopers who may be still be affected by the tragedy.
Looking at the title of the article, I was struck by the choice of words, "Healing Hearts." May God heal all hearts in this tragedy with the glorious gospel of his Son, Jesus Christ.
By Ad Crable
Lancaster New Era
Published: Oct 30, 2006 2:31 PM EST
LANCASTER COUNTY, PA - The Amish schoolgirls recognized the faces of state troopers, some of whom had carried them out of the bloody classroom into the blazing sun on that awful morning four weeks ago today.
The wife and parents of the mass murderer tearfully expressed their gratitude to the families of the victims for not only not judging them, but for reaching out to lessen their grief, even amid their own anguish.In two remarkable, emotional private meetings born of forgiveness and healing, about 50 Amish family members of the 10 shooting victims met last week with state police first-responders and the immediate family of shooter Charles Carl Roberts IV.“There were a lot of tears shed on Wednesday afternoon. There was a higher power in the room,” an Amish father said of the meeting in the Bart Fire Company firehouse with Roberts’ wife, Marie, her sister, her parents and the shooter’s parents.
The meeting, which had been carefully arranged by the Amish community, was restricted to Roberts family members and the parents and grandparents of the schoolchildren in the Oct. 2 massacre.Roberts, a distraught milk trucker, shot 10 schoolgirls at point-blank range, killing five, in the West Nickel Mines School before taking his own life as horrified state police gathered outside.Marie Roberts struggled to tell of the loss she felt for her Amish neighbors, according to witnesses at the meeting.The Amish families in attendance “were very happy she was able to do it and very proud of her for her courage,” said Kim Longenecker, who lives near Nickel Mines and talked to several Amish families afterward.“They said the next day they felt so much more at peace for hearing her. Marie really appreciated the fact that they could forgive and love her family regardless.“She’s very thankful everybody did not blame her in any way. She was very touched by that.”Nadine Welk, Marie Roberts’ mother, said on Saturday the family would not comment on the get-together.
In a separate meeting at the fire hall Friday evening, the Amish families assembled again for another emotional gathering, this time with about a dozen state troopers who were among the first on the scene as Roberts barricaded himself inside the school.State police arranged the meeting and the Amish were quite receptive.This quest for closure was marked by the appearance of three of the girls shot by Roberts who have returned home from hospital stays: Barbie Fisher, 11, Rachel Ann Stoltzfus, 8, and Esther King, 13.“It was very emotional. It was something that I don’t know how to put into words — how the state police put their hearts out on the floor and the Amish did the same,” said a father of a school survivor.“It was good for both sides.”He and other witnesses said at times the three girls were uncomfortable and edgy at being reminded of the tragedy. But those at the meeting were amazed when some of the girls recognized the faces of troopers who had rescued them and rushed over to talk to them.“It was comforting for the girls,” the Amishman said.
State police administrators in Harrisburg and the Lancaster barracks refused to comment on the meeting, other than to confirm it happened.“It’s not about us. It’s about the girls,” said one trooper who attended.But the gathering also served to aid troopers deeply affected by the tragedy. Two troopers reportedly did not attend because the event remains traumatic.An Amish leader near Gap called the troopers “our friends” and noted that some had attended the viewings of the shooting victims and continue to visit families.Some of the troopers were in uniforms and some in street clothes during the two-hour meeting. They gathered informally in groups with the various families of survivors.“They talked about that day,” said an Amishman whose son was sent away from the school by Roberts.Added another Amishman present, “The state police train for a lot of things, but you still can’t grasp the magnitude of something like this.“They (the Amish families) liked how the police took time to talk to each individual family,” added Longenecker.“They talked about what each experienced that day and what it’s like now.“It’s important for the cops to know how the families are doing. They (troopers) really went through a lot. The Amish families were very concerned about their well-being, too.”The Amish families who attended, she said, “said it was very heart-wrenching, very touching and they were very glad they did it.”