I should have turned off the TV.
And unplugged the Internet.
Maybe that would have turned off the image in my mind.
I see them. Girls and boys. Small one-room school. Brilliant blue sky. Leaves just starting to fall from the trees. Single swing set for a playground. That smell … that undescribably enticing fragrance of fall in Pennsylvania. Tiny parking area – after all, no one drives here. Bicycles and scooters outside … they took advantage of a crazy, warm day. Desks in rows. Chalkboard. Wide-brimmed straw hats. Simple, hand-sewn clothes. Bonnets. Plain dresses. A set of neat, tidy braids. And smiles …
A crunch of tires on the stones outside. A man … “English” … bursts in, muttering, carrying a gun …
America in the 21-st century crashes into …
GO! Boys run. Women run. Teacher runs. Phone. Find a phone. Call the police.
Meanwhile … line-up … tie-up … barricade the doors … sirens? … frantic call …
Mercifully, my mind can’t form the next image. It can’t. It won’t. It just knows what the television told me happened next …
Young Amish girls. Dead. Wounded. Families shocked, grieving.
The family of the shooter, too. Never saw it coming … so out of character. His wife was at prayer meeting when it happened …
Notes and calls lead to theories and ideas, but we really don’t know what flipped the switch that turned a family man into a cold-blooded killer.
All we know for certain is that we live in a crazy, mixed-up, fallen world and, in that crazy, mixed-up, fallen world, things happen that we just can’t fathom … we just need to muddle through somehow.
For one man, a tragedy happened some nine years ago. He hung onto the bitterness. He was angry with God. He wrote that he was filled with hate and emptiness. In the end, the hatred, bitterness and emptiness consumed him … and the lives of innocents … and innocence … in a schoolhouse.
For today … for this tragedy, we can follow the example of the Amish themselves. They have no spokesman in front of the cameras. No statements. No angry interviews. No lawyers threatening suit against the shooter’s family. Just action. An action that speaks louder than any speech … the Old Order Amish have set up two funds at a local bank.
One is for the Nickel Mines children.
The other is for the children of Charles Roberts IV.
It’s testimony to the words of a Mennonite nurse-midwife, who delivered some of the deceased children, as she was interviewed by NBC’s Ann Curry. Throughout the interview, the nurse, Rita, made it clear that faith and forgiveness would pull the families and the community
Rita: There’s two things happen with your faith. Either you let it go and you get bitter or you grow stronger and we’ll grow stronger.
Ann: How do you know?
Rita: When you have Christ in you that’s what happens.