NICKEL MINES, Pa., Oct. 3, 2006 — -- We arrived in this community of Nickel Mines, Pa., curious about how the Amish, who live differently than most Americans do, might react to what was an unthinkable act of violence.
It didn't take long for us to learn that the Amish families most affected by this tragedy have responded in a way that might seem foreign to most of us: They talk about Monday's school shooting only in terms of forgiveness.
"We're just trying to support each other and trying to let it sink in," said 17-year-old Dorothy King.
Two of her cousins were shot, and one is in critical condition, but like so many in the Amish community, she forgives the gunman, Charles Carl Roberts.
"We think it's all in God's hand," King said. "If this wouldn't have happened, something still would have happened … because their time was up. God's hand was in control."
Midwife Rhita Rhoads was present for the births of two of the five girls who were killed and also speaks of forgiving the gunman.
"If you have Jesus in your heart and he has forgiven you … [how] can you not forgive other people?" Rhoads said.
"I'm sure it's going to be a struggle to go on without a loved one like that," said Elmer Fisher. His 7-year-old cousin, Naomi Fisher, was among those murdered. "But I think they trust in God that he's going to take care of them and everything's going to be fine."
When asked if Roberts' wife would still be welcome in the community, Fisher said he believed she would, adding she would be welcome even at the funerals for the dead girls.
Such are the minds of the forgiving. Passages from the New Testament are taken literally in this community, and the Amish believe they need to love their enemies, which may be beyond the ability of most people, especially so close in time to the murders.
Amish people are cautious about technology. None use electricity or have cars.
"They won't play sports. They won't have music," said filmmaker Lucy Walker. Walker spent three years working on "The Devils Playground," a documentary about the Amish community.
She describes their strict dress code, which guides every detail of what they wear.
"They'll have a set uniform, including a haircut that's standard," she said. "The men, instead of wearing a wedding ring start growing a beard, but mustaches aren't allowed, zippers aren't allowed, buttons aren't allowed."
Their lifestyle is slow. Mass media and TVs and computers and electricity are all rejected. But perhaps most remarkable to the outsider who comes to this community is its ability to grieve together, forgive as a community and realize they must move on.
As one man noted, now there is harvesting that has to be done.