Former Amish Woman Gives Insider Perspective on Aftermath of Shooting

In a country that is all about diversity, we are still fascinated by those who are different, and the Amish hold a special place in our collective curiosity.

The Amish call us "the English," because we are outsiders to their unique way of life -- a life that was inexplicably shaken by violence and tragedy on Monday.

Many Americans first learned about the Amish in the Oscar-winning film "Witness."

They say they are a people apart, who choose simplicity over technology.

They live in communities based on humility before God, instead of the modern dog-eat-dog world.

"They feel that if they associate too freely with the world, those outside values will contaminate their values and lead children away from the church," said Donald Kraybill, who studies the Amish at Elizabethtown College.

Most speak a German dialect called Pennsylvania Dutch and learn English in school.

"They feel they came to the United States before it was called that, as Christians seeking tolerance, and to be left alone," Kraybill said.

An Insider's Perspective

Ruth Irene Garrett, who was raised Amish and left the community when she was 22, has written several books about her experiences.

"I think the fascination is just going back in time, and it's peaceful and serene and it is apart from the world, definitely," Garrett said today on "Good Morning America."

"You hear about violence in the outside world and these horrible things, but you're almost detached from the world because you're not part of it."

There is no evidence that the shooter, Charles Carl Roberts, who delivered milk in the community, specifically targeted the Amish.

In fact, Garrett said, a milkman like Roberts is often a trusted person in the community.

"A milkman came to our farm every two days and this is somebody you knew and trusted, I'm sure, as these people did," Garrett said.

Outsiders who come to the farms are usually an avenue of news as well.

"They will usually fill us in on world news like 9/11, school shootings, and things like that that make big headlines," she said.

Control and Discipline Important

Today, the Amish have settlements in 25 states, numbering about 180,000 people, but little has changed over the years.

Children grow up without TV or video games. They wear traditional dress and spend much of their time doing chores on the farm.

Many attend one-room schoolhouses, and their education typically ends at the eighth grade. The main lessons are humility, submission, and, above all, nonviolence.

"The purpose of living in the Amish community is to be a blessing to God, to do work, and conduct yourself in a way that brings honor and glory to God," Kraybill said.

And they are not ignorant to what the outside world offers, thanks to a tradition called rumspringa, German for "running around."

When children are 16, they are permitted to wear modern dress and explore the sins of the outside world, after which they may choose for themselves whether to join the church.

Ninety percent choose the Amish life.

Garrett says that the Amish prize self-control and discipline.

"They try to handle everything themselves," she said. "They're in control, and their life is very organized."

Garrett said it was likely very difficult to get parents or children to open up to law enforcement or medical workers and to accept help.

"I mean, I know they're probably cooperating, but it's still like their world is completely shattered because they're used to being in charge," Garrett said. "So to get these children to open up to outside psychologists after the outside world has attacked them is going to be. … It's going to be very difficult."