Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Five Little Girls

I want to post about the Amish school shooting but it's not easy. Every time I read an article about it I start crying. I'm mad, I'm scared, I'm furious and I'm confused.

This one hit me harder than the others have because it's closer to me. My parents live within 10 miles of the schoolhouse. I've probably driven by it, I know I've passed many of them. Some of the wounded girls were taken to the hospital I used to work at in Delaware. I tried for an internship at the Clinic for Special Children which treats Amish with genetic disorders in nearby Strasburg.

For the 6 months I lived with my parents in Strasburg I drove past a one room Amish school every workday. I'd see the little boys and girls getting off the bus with their Coleman lunch coolers and their hats and bonnets. They're always little because the Amish stop school at the eighth grade. The older children are working on the family farm or the family business.

Sometimes on a Saturday night you'll see the Amish teens hanging out at the pizza place in the town square. They act like every other teenager, maybe bit quieter and a little more attentive to the tv in the corner. It's a novelty to them.

The schools aren't usually marked as such. Do you know how you can tell if a building is an Amish school? First, there won't be any electrical wires going from the street to the house. And secondly, away from the building but still inside the white fence, there will be 2 outhouses; one for the girls and one for the boys.

For a graduation present, my parents gave Patty and me a hot air balloon ride. It was on a Sunday and we landed just as worship was letting out and buggies were streaming down the road (they meet all day on Sundays in different people's homes). We landed and were suddenly surrounded by a slew of Amish kids. A few of the dads soon followed. After a balloon ride, the riders are expected to help fold the balloon up for traveling. A dozen little kids didn't wait to be asked but jumped in with both feet. I think they did the majority of the work, giggling the whole time.

One little boy was about 4 years old. He was partially deaf and had hearing aids in both ears. His dad plopped him up on the edge of the basket and proceeded to ask Patty and me about the balloon's gas system. "We're sorry, sir. We don't know if it runs on LP."

My parents soon arrive in the mini-van, they'd been following the balloon and had Lucy with them. When the little boy saw her he asked something. I couldn't understand him; a combination of 4-year old language, the Pennsylvania Dutch accent and the flatness that comes with being deaf. His dad clarified his question with sign language and then asked it that was our dog. When I said it was, the little boy wanted us to know that he had a dog too. Lucy came over then and got a pat from him.

I know this post is a little disjointed. But the story that led to its creation is disjointed. Disjointed and horrible and not understandable.

The Amish aren't perfect people, but I admire them. They have their beliefs and lead their simple life. They deal with the English (everyone who's not Amish) every day and go home to a life most of us couldn't lead.

This isn't the first time violence has touched their community. They do their business deals in cash and have become targets for that. Sometimes they're attacked for "fun". But they continue their Plain lives and forgive.

Yesterday, five little girls were murdered. It's a horrible tragedy for so many reasons, but two facts make it almost unbearable. They were Amish and were targeted because of it. And they were killed not because of their beliefs but because of their gender. Five little girls.

Naomi Rose Ebersole, 7
Marian Fisher, 13
Hannah Mae Stolzfus, 12
Mary Liz Miller, 8
Lina Miller, 7


Heather said...

This story breaks my heart. Why he couldn't have just killed himself, I will never understand.

Bethany said...

Thank you for this post. You've articulated exactly how I feel about the Amish that I know. And that's why this has affected me so much as well.

Sue said...

It's been a very sad week indeed.