Six Months After Massacre, Amish Open New Schoolhouse

This morning the Amish schoolchildren of Nickel Mines, Pa., walked to their brand-new one-room schoolhouse, appropriately called the New Hope Amish School.

Six months after a massacre that left five young girls dead, the tightly knit community believes it's a time for new beginnings and new hope in the town.

On Oct. 2, 2006, truck driver Charles Carl Roberts IV entered the former Nickel Mines schoolhouse and shot 10 girls. He then committed suicide as police drew closer.

Until now, the students had been attending class in a garage, after the last schoolhouse was torn down.

The new school comes with the kind of security not usually found among the Amish.

"It has some extra locks, a panic button near the door," said Rita Rhoads, an Amish midwife who lives in the community. "That was done so the teacher and the students have an increased feeling of security."

There are other, more subtle changes. Students haunted by the the sound of the wheels of the gunman's pickup truck spinning over the gravel driveway asked for a paved road to lead to the schoolhouse. They've been given one.

'Recovering Well'

The Rev. Kristine Hileman was in a prayer group with Marie Roberts, Charles' wife, the morning of the shooting. Marie has since mourned with the Amish.

"I think the community is recovering really very well," Hileman said. "They've worked well together through the crisis, and I think that they have learned to work even better together."

Of the five surviving girls, one is still home in a coma, and the other four are back at school.

"I think it's a miracle that the girls are doing so well," Hileman said. "You know to run out and play, and be going back to school."

The new school is a quarter-mile away from the location of the destroyed old school, and it was built with mostly donated materials. The Nickel Mines Amish community received $4 million in donations from around the country and the world.

The community also has used that money to pay hospital bills and buy rehabilitation equipment for the little girls who came home from the hospital.

"We just pray that there will never be a similar episode anywhere," Rhoads said.