The horrific story of the Amish shooting in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania in 2006 was on my mind this week. The people of Nickel Mines understand, perhaps better than anyone, what the families are facing in Newtown. I remembered that the Amish responded to their grief with astonishing grace and mercy—reaching out to forgive what would seem, to many, unforgivable:
The tragic schoolhouse shooting of ten Amish girls at Nickel Mines in Southern Lancaster County stunned the world. What was even more surprising was the Amish response of forgiveness in the face of this unprecedented slaughter of the innocent of the innocent. By the end of that awful day in October 2006, five young girls were dead and five others were fighting for their lives in emergency rooms. How would we have responded if these had been our daughters, our sisters, our nieces, or our granddaughters?
The Amish response of forgiveness shocked the world and quickly became the story that eclipsed the story of violence. Within a week of the shooting some 2,400 media stories around the world focused on the courage to forgive in the wake of the horror….
…One of the most striking expressions of forgiveness occurred at [the shooter] Charles Roberts’s burial on the Saturday after the shooting. Roberts was buried in the Georgetown cemetery, about a mile from the school, beside his firstborn daughter whose premature death nine years earlier he blamed on God and gave as the reason for his murderous acts. Over half of the people in attendance were Amish. They spontaneously decided to attend. Some had just buried their own daughters the day before. After the burial they hugged the widow and the parents of Charles Roberts. It was a remarkable act of grace. The funeral director supervising the burial said, “I realized that I was witnessing a miracle!” The Amish families bestowed other gracious acts of kindness on the family of Charles Roberts. Some sent meals and flowers to his widow. At Christmastime children from a nearby Amish school went to the Roberts home to sing carols.