Skip to comments.Raw anguish for tiny angels
Posted on 10/05/2006 10:22:58 AM PDT by nuconvert
Raw anguish for tiny angels
Hundreds mourn 5 schoolgirls executed by deranged gunman
BY HELEN KENNEDY and JESS WISLOSKI
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS
PARADISE, Pa. - Dressed by their mothers in pure white pinafores, the little girls slain in Monday's Amish school massacre were laid out in rough wooden coffins in their front parlors yesterday as hundreds of friends, relatives and neighbors came to say goodbye. "There was a war between good and evil in that schoolhouse and good won," Naomi Ebersol's grandfather told mourners by the 7-year-old's coffin, according to a visitor.
"He said he thought good won because the children did not get abused as that man intentionally planned," explained Mennonite midwife Rita Rhoads.
Police believe Charles Roberts, 32, had planned to sexually assault the girls, but panicked when police arrived at the barricaded schoolhouse and instead shot the girls and then himself.
Rhoads, who helped bring Naomi into the world, remembers how "tickled" her parents were to finally have a girl after five sons.
"And she really was a pretty little girl. Even in death she was so pretty - really beautiful," she said.
The girls will be laid to rest today and tomorrow in simple Amish ceremonies. Two were sisters: Mary Miller, 8, and Lina Miller, 7. Inseparable in life, they will be lowered into the same hand-dug grave.
The Rev. Robert Schenck, president of the National Clergy Council, was one of the only "English," as the Amish call outsiders, to be invited to a viewing. He called it "a gift given to me by God" to have seen the mourners' quiet grace.
"There was no animosity or bitterness or anger," he said. "They were praying for the gunman and his family."
Dressed in black, groups of men and woman sat separately on plain benches in the front rooms of the bereaved farm families. It was quiet enough to hear the snorting of their horses out front.
"One moment they might be crying, the next they are smiling over something they remember about the child," Rhoads said.
Viewing the body is very important to the Amish, and so the coffins were open, despite the grievous physical damage the girls suffered. The Amish prohibit using cosmetics on the body.
"The head wounds were very apparent," said Schenck, who went to 13-year-old Marian Fisher's viewing. "There was a bandage of sorts on her head, but the concave outline of the wound was clear. That was very jarring to see."
And yet, he said, it wasn't gruesome. Indeed, he was moved to tears watching Marian's mother gently tend to her daughter.
"Her mother was very tenderly adjusting the wrapping around the body. She was swaddling her daughter, caring for her. It was very clear that this mother was very proud of her daughter. She obviously loved this little girl," Schenck said.
The mother encouraged Marian's 10-year-old sister to touch the older girl's cold limbs. "It's part of realizing that's she's really gone now, that she's really in heaven," Rhoads said.
Schenck said Marian's grandfather told the assembled children they "must not think evil of this man who did this."
The viewings were especially hard on the two sets of parents whose daughters are among the five girls still battling for life.
"They really aren't able to visit the children in the hospital as much as they'd like to. They have to concentrate on funerals," Rhoads said.
In keeping with all aspects of Amish life, today's services will be unadorned, humble and intently focused on God.
About 500 people are expected to attend the four funerals, to be held in large barns. The funeral for the fifth girl, Anna Mae Stoltzfus, 12, will be tomorrow.
There will be no flowers or singing, though hymns will be chanted. There will be no eulogies: The Amish believe praise is for the Lord, not the dead.
And though the massacre caught the horrified attention of the world, there will be no tearful relatives flown to New York to appear on morning TV shows, no pictures of the victims getting their own mournful theme song on CNN, no book deals. For once, there will be dignity.
The two-hour Amish funeral service, conducted in High German, is solemn and subdued. Two or three ministers will read hymns and passages from the Bible and an Amish prayer book. There will be a sermon and quiet prayers.
The coffins will then be loaded onto a horse-drawn hearse, which will lead a procession of black buggies to the cemetery.
All five girls will be buried in the Bart Amish cemetery in Georgetown, a few miles from the yellow schoolhouse.
The Amish have no health insurance, and the medical bills of the five survivors are soaring, but offers of help were pouring in from around the world. "I expect it to be in the millions," said Kevin King, executive director of Mennonite Disaster Services.
Amish elders have also set up a fund for Roberts' three children.
According to King, a district deacon said, "'If we hear they've got $5 and we've got a thousand, we must go help them.' The ultimate mission of this group is about forgiveness."
This brought tears to my eyes.
Better people than I am, I guess. I couldn't do it.
prayers for comfort and for God's help to them, and to us all.
"And though the massacre caught the horrified attention of the world, there will be no tearful relatives flown to New York to appear on morning TV shows, no pictures of the victims getting their own mournful theme song on CNN, no book deals. For once, there will be dignity."
Dear God please help us all to feel this way! Please care for those precious little girls. I am amazed at this, if my daughter was killed, my heart would be black for a long long time.
Even the spiritually clueless msm shows awe and admiration for the Amish, a grove of oaks in a nation of twigs. It doesn't take much to be a "rah-rah Christian" in the good times, but to see the really faithful carrying their burden of suffering in this Christ-like way is a lesson to the rest of us.
Brought a lot of tears to my eyes. So sad and senseless.
God Bless them all.
Compare/contrast to some of the 9/11 victim's families...
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May God bless and protect the families.
May God Bless them...
A heck of a lot of class and dignity in those simple people, isn't there? I've admired them in the past; I admire them even more, now.
They're just a few miles to my east, and I visit "Amish Country" whenever I can. The Farmers Markets are wonderful.
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