Various accounts and photos concerning the Amish School Shooting Tragedy. It’s victim’s will not be forgotten.
Charles Roberts … left the Amish community shocked after walking into the one-room schoolhouse and shooting the girls.
October 2nd, 2006. It was a typical fall day. Birds could be heard in the distance and little else, except maybe the clip-clop of a horse’s hoofs and the rattling of a buggy heading down a back country road. It’s normally quiet and peaceful in the rolling Amish farmlands of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.
But that peace was shattered when the sound of gunfire was heard from inside an Amish school. When local police broke into the one-room Amish schoolhouse they found 10 Amish girls ages 6-13 had been shot by Charles Carl Roberts IV, who had then committed suicide.
School shootings are a far too frequent occurrence in this country. But this case openly displayed a clash of two different cultures – the modern, more “advanced” American society and the withdrawn community of the Amish, who intentionally attempt to distance themselves from worldly influences. The violence that is far too common in one society blasted its way into the non-violent, peaceful community of “the gentle people”.
The shooting took place at the West Nickel Mines Amish School, located about 12 miles southeast of Lancaster City. Nickel Mines is just a crossroads within Bart Township, a local municipality with a population of roughly 3,000 Amish and English (the Amish term for the non-Amish).
The school was a typical Amish one-room school with a school bell on the roof, two outhouses, a ball field, and an enclosed schoolyard. It was built in 1976. On the blackboard was a sign with a teddy bear. The sign read “Visitors Bubble Up Our Days”. Twenty-six children, ages 6-13, from three different local Amish church districts attended this school.
Charlie Roberts was a milk truck driver who serviced the local community, including the farms of some of the victims’ families. Nine years earlier his wife Amy gave birth to their first child, a baby girl. However, the baby died after living only 20 minutes. Apparently his daughter’s death affected him greatly. He never forgave God for her death, and eventually planned to get revenge.
On the morning of October 2nd Roberts said goodbye to two of his own children at the school bus stop, then drove to the West Nickel Mines Amish School. When he walked in the door, some of the children recognized him. That day the school had four adult visitors – the teacher’s mother, her sister, and two sisters-in-law. One of the women was pregnant. When the young teacher saw his guns, she and her mother left the other adults with the children and ran to a nearby house for help. A call was made to 911.
The pregnant visitor was trying to comfort 7-year old Naomi Rose when Roberts ordered the adults to leave. Then he told the boys to leave. The boys huddled near an outhouse to pray. Roberts had the 10 girls lie down facing the blackboard and he tied their hands and feet. Roberts told the girls he was sorry for what he was about to do, but “I’m angry at God and I need to punish some Christian girls to get even with him.”
When the state police arrived, Roberts ordered them to leave the property or he would shoot. He told the girls, “I’m going to make you pay for my daughter.” One of the girls, 13-year old Marian, said, “Shoot me first.” Roberts began shooting each of the girls before finally shooting himself. When the police broke in to the school, two of the girls, including Marian, were dead. Naomi Rose died in the arms of a state trooper.
Emergency personnel arrived quickly, and helicopters flew the wounded to hospitals in Lancaster, Hershey, Reading, and Delaware. Two sisters died later that night in two different area hospitals. Amish parents tried to console themselves by saying the five girls who had died were “safe in the arms of Jesus.”
Word about the shooting spread quickly throughout the Amish community. The shooting was reported on local television stations, and was soon picked up by the national media. Reporters, photographers, and video crews invaded this rural countryside to report this story around the world. While the Amish community strives to avoid publicity, this tragic event thrust their community in front of a worldwide audience.
The Amish were obviously shocked by this incident and they collectively grieved for the children and their families. But that shock extended far beyond just the Amish. This tragedy rocked all of Lancaster County. The day after the shooting, 1600 gathered for a prayer service at one local church, while hundreds more met at other churches for prayer. All Lancaster County shared in the horror and grief of this tragedy. As one Amishman said, “Today, we’re all Amish.”
Some individuals and organizations hosted barbecues and other events to raise financial support for the victims’ funds. Over 3,000 motorcyclists rode together from nearby Chester County to Lancaster in a procession over 12 miles long. They raised over $30,000 in support.
A number of funds were set up to accept donations for the families of the Amish girls who were shot, and for Roberts’ wife and three young children. Donations and sympathy flowed in not only from Lancaster County but from across the county and around the world. For months volunteers met at the Bart Twp. Firehouse to sort through thousands of cards, letters, teddy bears, and other gifts from around the world. Some were addressed simply to “Amish Families, USA”.
In all, over four million dollars was raised in support of the families.
The horror of this school shooting was the story the reporters came to tell about. However, in the hours and days following the shooting another story developed that also caught the world’s attention – the story of Amish forgiveness.
The following is from Wikipedia:
The Amish school shooting refers to an attack that occurred at the West Nickel Mines School, an Amish one-room schoolhouse in the Old Order Amish community of Nickel Mines, a village in Bart Township of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, United States, on October 2, 2006. Gunman Charles Carl Roberts IV took hostages and eventually shot and killed five girls (aged 6–13) before committing suicide in the schoolhouse.
The emphasis on forgiveness and reconciliation in the response of the Amish community was widely discussed in the national media. The West Nickel Mines School was torn down, and a new one-room schoolhouse, the New Hope School, was built at another location.
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The gunman, Charles Carl Roberts, backed a pickup truck up to the front of the Amish schoolhouse and entered the school at approximately 10:25 a.m. EDT, shortly after the children had returned from recess. He allegedly asked the teacher, Emma Mae Zook, and the students if they had seen a clevis pin missing along the road. Survivors later recounted that Roberts was mumbling his words and was not making direct eye contact with anyone. After the occupants of the classroom denied seeing any such object, Roberts walked out to his truck and reappeared in the classroom holding a 9mm handgun. He ordered the male students to help him carry items into the classroom from the back of his pickup. Zook and her mother, who was visiting the schoolhouse, took this opportunity to escape the school and ran towards a nearby farm to get help. Roberts saw the people leave, and ordered one of the boys to stop them, threatening to shoot everyone if the women got away. Still, Zook and her mother managed to reach the farm, where they asked Amos Smoker to call 911.
Roberts and the young boys carried lumber, a shotgun, a stun-gun, wires, chains, nails, tools and a small bag. Also brought into the classroom was a length of wooden board with multiple sets of metal eyehooks, presumably to be used for securing the victims. The contents of the bag included a change of clothes, toilet paper, candles, sexual lubricant, and flexible plastic ties. Using wooden boards, Roberts barricaded the front door.
He ordered the female children to line up against the chalkboard and allowed a pregnant woman, three parents with infants, and all remaining male students to exit the building. One female student also escaped: nine-year-old Emma Fisher (whose two older sisters remained inside).The nine-year old, who spoke only Pennsylvania German, had not understood Robert’s order, “Stay here. Do not move, YOU WILL BE SHOT.” and followed her brother, Peterli, out of the building, leaving ten hostages.
The 911 call from the farm where Zook and her mother sought help was recorded at 10:36 a.m. In an article entitled Revisiting the Amish Schoolhouse Massacre,published August 22, 2007, the situation is described prior to the arrival of the first state police troopers: “An Amish adult male from this farm, with his two large dogs, took the bold opportunity to stealthily approach the windowless back wall of the schoolhouse. Hoping for an opportunity to help the little girls, he slowly crept around one side of the wooden structure and positioned himself as an observer next to a side window.” The detailed accounting of the police response continues, “Observing that the first police patrol vehicle to approach the scene was not slowing down to stop, the Amish man quickly withdrew from his hiding place and sprinted towards the roadway to wave down the trooper, who did a fast U-turn and parked. That would be the last successful attempt at an unnoticed move upon the building by anyone.”
Police and emergency medical personnel arrive
The first trooper arrived at approximately 10:42 a.m. Additional troopers continued to arrive within minutes immediately afterwards.
Roberts was binding the arms and legs of his hostages with plastic ties. A group of troopers approached the schoolhouse. Aware of this, Roberts warned the troopers to leave immediately, threatening to shoot the girls. The police officers backed away and formed a nearby perimeter, but did not leave the premises as requested.
The police, while waiting for reinforcements, attempted to communicate with Roberts via the PA system in their cruisers. They asked Roberts to throw out his weapons and exit the schoolhouse. Roberts refused, again ordering the officers to leave.
By 11:00 a.m. a large crowd—including police officers, emergency medical technicians, and residents of the village—had assembled both outside the schoolhouse and at a nearby ambulance staging area. County and state police dispatchers had briefly established telephone contact with Roberts as he continued to threaten violence against the children.
During interviews conducted later it became apparent that all girls knew of their fate. Some conversed among themselves throughout the ordeal. Shortly before Roberts opened fire, two sisters, Marian and Barbie Fisher, 13 and 11, requested that they be shot first that the others might be spared. Barbie was wounded, while her older sister was killed.
A child’s loud screaming was heard from within the school. A team of officers was positioned just behind a shed attached to the rear corner of the schoolhouse and they requested permission over the radio to approach the windows. The permission was denied.
At approximately 11:07 a.m., Roberts began shooting the victims. The troopers immediately approached. As the first trooper in line reached a window, the shooting abruptly stopped. Roberts had committed suicide.
It took the troopers about two and a half minutes to break into the school to assist those children who were not killed instantly. At about 11:10 a.m. a message was broadcast on the police radio “a mass casualty on White Oak Road, Bart Township, with multiple children shot.” and “at 11:11 a.m., police radioed dispatchers again, estimating 10 to 12 patients with head injuries. The first medical helicopter was dispatched.”
Troopers assisted the surviving children, administering first aid as they carried them outside. The troopers continued to tend to the girls, helping the Emergency Medical Technicians provide first aid on the school playground. Ambulances arrived just as the wounded girls were being carried out of the schoolhouse. Helicopters landed shortly thereafter and those still living were taken away for medical treatment.
Three girls died at the scene and two more died early the next morning, with five more left in critical condition. All of the victims that survived the immediate attack were brought to Lancaster General Hospital, stabilized, and then transferred to hospitals with pediatric trauma care. Three of the children were admitted to Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, four to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and one to Christiana Hospital in Newark, Delaware, reported a state police spokesman.
One of the surviving children was initially transported to The Reading Hospital and Medical Center via helicopter, and then transported to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia after being stabilized.
Reports stated that most of the girls were shot “execution-style” in the back of the head.The ages of the victims ranged from six to thirteen.
According to the Washington Post, police and coroner accounts of the children’s wounds differed dramatically; Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Jeffrey Miller said Roberts shot his victims in the head at close range, with 17 or 18 shots fired in all, including the one he used to take his own life as police stormed into the school by breaking through the window glass. However, Janice Ballenger, deputy coroner in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, told The Washington Post in an interview that she counted at least two dozen bullet wounds in one child alone before asking a colleague to continue for her.
Inside the school, Ballenger said, “there was not one desk, not one chair, in the whole schoolroom that was not splattered with either blood or glass. There were bullet holes everywhere, everywhere.”
As a result of their actions in the line of duty, State Police Commissioner Jeffrey B. Miller presented the State Police Medal of Honor to ten Pennsylvania State Troopers in appreciation for their efforts to assist the victims.
Amish response with forgiveness
On the day of the shooting, a grandfather of one of the murdered Amish girls was heard warning some young relatives not to hate the killer, saying, “We must not think evil of this man.” Another Amish father noted, “He had a mother and a wife and a soul and now he’s standing before a just God.”
Jack Meyer, a member of the Brethren community living near the Amish in Lancaster County, explained: “I don’t think there’s anybody here that wants to do anything but forgive and not only reach out to those who have suffered a loss in that way but to reach out to the family of the man who committed these acts.”
A Roberts family spokesman said an Amish neighbor comforted the Roberts family hours after the shooting and extended forgiveness to them. Amish community members visited and comforted Roberts’ widow, parents, and parents-in-law. One Amish man held Roberts’ sobbing father in his arms, reportedly for as long as an hour, to comfort him. The Amish have also set up a charitable fund for the family of the shooter.About 30 members of the Amish community attended Roberts’ funeral,and Marie Roberts, the widow of the killer, was one of the few outsiders invited to the funeral of one of the victims.Marie Roberts wrote an open letter to her Amish neighbors thanking them for their forgiveness, grace, and mercy. She wrote, “Your love for our family has helped to provide the healing we so desperately need. Gifts you’ve given have touched our hearts in a way no words can describe. Your compassion has reached beyond our family, beyond our community, and is changing our world, and for this we sincerely thank you.”
The Amish do not normally accept charity, but due to the extreme nature of the tragedy, donations were accepted. Richie Lauer, director of the Anabaptist Foundation, said the Amish community, whose religious beliefs prohibit them from having health insurance, will likely use the donations to help pay the medical costs of the hospitalized children.
Some commentators criticized the swift and complete forgiveness with which the Amish responded, arguing that forgiveness is inappropriate when no remorse has been expressed, and that such an attitude runs the risk of denying the existence of evil; others were supportive.Donald Kraybill and two other scholars of Amish life noted that “letting go of grudges” is a deeply-rooted value in Amish culture, which remembers forgiving martyrs including Dirk Willems and Jesus himself. They explained that the Amish willingness to forgo vengeance does not undo the tragedy or pardon the wrong, but rather constitutes a first step toward a future that is more hopeful.
The West Nickel Mines School was demolished the following week, on October 12, 2006. The site was left as a quiet pasture.A new schoolhouse, called the New Hope School, was built at a different location, near the original site. It opened on April 2, 2007, precisely six months after the shooting. The new school was intentionally built as “different” as possible from the original, including the style of the flooring.
Roberts, who was at the time a resident of nearby Georgetown, another unincorporated area of Bart Township, was last seen by his wife at 8:45 a.m. when they walked their children to the bus stop before leaving. When Mrs. Roberts returned home a little before 11:00 a.m., she discovered four suicide notes; one addressed to herself and one to each of their three children.
Roberts called his wife from the schoolhouse on his cell phone and told her that he had molested two young female relatives (between the ages of 3 and 5) twenty years previously (when he was 12) and had been daydreaming about molesting again.
One note Roberts left behind indicated his despondency over a daughter who died approximately twenty minutes after birth nine years earlier. He stated that he had “been having dreams for the past couple of years about doing what he did 20 years ago and he has dreams of doing them again”, according to State Police Commissioner Colonel Jeffrey B. Miller.
On October 4, 2006, the two relatives whom Roberts said he molested 20 years ago told police that no such abuse had ever happened, throwing a new layer of mystery over the gunman’s motive and mental state during the shooting.
Miller said there was no evidence any of the Amish children had been molested.
* Naomi Rose Ebersol, aged 7, died at the scene October 2, 2006.
* Marian Stoltzfus Fisher, aged 13, died at the scene October 2, 2006.
* Anna Mae Stoltzfus, aged 12, was declared dead on arrival at Lancaster General Hospital, Lancaster, Pennsylvania October 2, 2006.
* Lena Zook Miller, aged 7, died at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania on October 3, 2006.
* Mary Liz Miller, aged 8, died at Christiana Hospital in Newark, Delaware on October 3, 2006.
All of the surviving Amish schoolgirls were hospitalized.
* Rosanna King, 6 years old, was removed from life support at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and sent home at the request of her family on October 4, 2006. Some reports claim the child showed signs of recovery and was sent back to the hospital. Her condition improved, though she is still greatly impaired from the shooting and remains at home.
* Rachel Ann Stoltzfus, 8 years old
* Barbie Fisher, 10 years old
* Sarah Ann Stoltzfus, 12 years old
* Esther King, 13 years old
The girls wounded in the shooting made measurable progress in the year since the shooting. Sara Ann Stoltzfus, now 13, did not have full vision in her left eye but was back at school — she was not expected to survive. Barbie Fisher, 11, was pitching in school softball but had undergone another shoulder operation in hopes of strengthening her right arm. Rachel Ann Stoltzfus, 9, returned to school in the months after the shooting. Esther King, 14, returned to school in the months after shooting, graduated and was working on the family farm.The youngest victim, Rosanna King, 6, wasn’t expected to survive and was sent home to die there. She had serious brain injuries and does not walk or talk as of December 2009[update]. Rosanna is confined to a wheelchair, but is said to recognize family members and frequently smiles.
On October 10, 2006, the 911 transcripts were released.
Transcript of 911 calls made October 2, 2006 in connection with gunman Charles Carl Robert IV’s siege at an Amish schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, Pa. The callers identified in the transcript: Amos Smoker, the same man who telephoned 911 reporting the armed invader at the school, Roberts and Robert’s wife, Marie. In some cases the transcript indicates the line went dead because the call was transferred to state police and was not recorded by Lancaster County.
At 10:35, Amos Smoker placed the call on behalf of the school teacher, Emma Mae Zook, who had run to a nearby farm to summon help. About the time of this initial call for help, a pregnant woman, three parents with infants, and all fifteen male students were told to leave the school by Roberts. The first police officer arrived approximately six minutes later. As the first few troopers approached the building, Roberts ordered them to leave or else he would start shooting. An agitated Roberts continued to demand that police leave as the troopers attempted to communicate with Roberts via the PA system in their cruisers
At 10:41, a second caller reported the incident, and was transferred to the State Police.
At 10:55, Roberts was reaching the final stages of his plan. The bound girls had been arranged at the front of the classroom, near the chalkboard. Roberts made two cell phone calls, one to his wife and the next one to police. He warned the 911 dispatcher that if state police were not off the property in two seconds, he would kill the children. The dispatcher attempted to delay him and put him in touch with the State Police, but Roberts ended the call. Two of the girls then began negotiating with Roberts. They plead for him to shoot them first. This allowed the girls a little extra time for possible rescue. At approximately 11:07 a.m., Roberts follows through with his threats and the sound of rapid gunfire was heard.
At 10:58, Mrs. Roberts called 911 after arriving home from a prayer study group meeting. She had discovered a suicide note left on the kitchen table and had received a brief and disturbing emotional phone call from her husband. The 911 dispatcher put her in touch with State Police.