After a man burst into a Pennsylvania schoolhouse Monday and shot five young girls to death, the Amish community that was left to deal with the tragedy expressed a range of emotions, but anger was not one of them.
Rita Rose, a local midwife and friend who worked amid the Amish community, told NBC that the mother of one of the victims, a 13 year-old girl, has already forgiven the gunman.
They all have.
“She holds no ill will toward the shooter. She’s very forgiving. Christ forgave us, and we in turn forgive, and they honestly have forgiven,” she said. “Even last night, there was no anger toward the shooter.”
The night of the shooting a mental health team arrived at a local firehouse where a gathering of 40 Amish neighbors came to find information and answers to questions about dealing with trauma.
The psychologist that arrived that night was surprised that they were not only talking about supporting the families of the victims, they were also discussing ways they could help the family of the killer, a man who lived nearby but who was not Amish.
He told NPR, “They were talking about how to support his family (the shooter, who killed himself had a wife and three children). They were planning to send a contingent over, perhaps bringing over some food. They had already gotten to the place of forgiveness.”
In the LA Times was this account of the Amish and their reactions:
Rather than dwell on the victims, “though this is a close-knit community, where few are strangers,” Amish residents spoke of their concern for the Roberts family; their sorrow that a man could become so unhinged, so alienated…
“I wish someone could have helped him out, poor soul. It’s obvious that something was troubling him.”
An Amish woman who gave her name as Irene also expressed compassion for the gunman. “I am very thankful,” she said, “that I was raised to believe you don’t fight back. You should forgive.”
The shooter’s wife Marie Roberts released a statement Monday night to the media saying: “The man who did this today is not the Charlie that I’ve been married to for almost 10 years. My husband is loving, supportive, thoughtful, all the things you’d always want and more. Our hearts are broken, our lives are shattered, and we grieve for the innocence and lives that were lost today.”