Outside World Shatters Peaceful Life of Amish

Members of an Amish community in Nickel Mines, Pa., are reeling, and praying, after a shooting inside a one-room schoolhouse killed five children.

At least three other children are in critical condition in area hospitals, according to police.

The Amish families who are mourning, are doing so in silence.

"It's painful. There's a big hole. We knew some of them. My daughter played with one of them," said a Mennonite woman who asked that her name not be used.

She and her family live among the Amish in Nickel Mines, 55 miles west of Philadelphia, because it is a simpler life.

Now the outside world has crashed in on the community, shattering its peaceful existence.

The Mennonite mother said it was difficult to know what to say to grieving families.

"You just listen, because what can you say?" she said. "You need to help them bear the pain."

For the authorities, helping the families was a delicate task from the moment the first call for help came into 911.

Neighbors here believe that call might have come from a pregnant teacher who was released by the gunman.

She had to find a phone, as there are no phones in the schoolhouse.

Even the rescue efforts were handled differently here.

State police offered helicopters to fly the victims' families to area hospitals where their children were taken.

Families who normally travel by horse and buggy asked for vans instead.

"I just don't know really how to react to it yet. I'm just like in a daze yet trying to figure out how we are going to handle this," said Daniel Becler, a resident.

State police plan to continue ferrying families to area hospitals where their loved ones were taken, and at least one hospital has set aside a separate area to provide family members with as much privacy as possible.