GEORGETOWN, Pa. – Church bells tolled across Amish country Monday morning in memory of five young girls who were shot to death in their tiny, one-room schoolhouse one week earlier.
The survivors of that attack will eventually resume classes in another building, already being stocked with donations of stuffed animals and school supplies.
"Their objective right now is to get back to life, as normal as they can, (and) get the children back to a normal school," Bart Township Fire Company spokesman Mike Hart said Monday.
Charles Carl Roberts IV, a 32-year-old milk truck driver and father of three, took 10 girls hostage at the school on Oct. 2 and shot all of them, killing five. A county coroner said Sunday that one of the wounded girls was not expected to survive.
Local Amish officials have not decided when the children will return to class at the new building, or when the community might raze the West Nickel Mines Amish School.
Monday morning, churches throughout Lancaster County tolled their bells in remembrance of the victims at 10:45 a.m., the time the siege began a week earlier.
The Rev. Douglas Hileman rang the bells at Middle Octorara Presbyterian Church in Quarryville, where the gunman's widow, Marie Roberts, had been taking part in a prayer group at the time of the shooting. About a half-dozen people sat inside, praying.
Community counseling sessions, open to the public, were planned for Monday and Tuesday nights at the firehouse.
The fire department has also been ferrying the donated supplies to the temporary school site, which Hart would not identify. Despite the planned move, school and community leaders think there may be some benefit to letting students or their families back inside the old school at some point.
"They want to make sure that everyone has as much closure as they need," John Coldiron, a Bart Township zoning official, said Monday.
Daniel Esh, whose three grandnephews attended the school, said he was told after a meeting Sunday that the schoolhouse would be torn down or burned down and rebuilt elsewhere.
"It would just be asking too much of them to go back," Esh said.
Funerals for the five slain girls — Anna Mae Stoltzfus, 12; Marian Fisher, 13; Naomi Rose Ebersol, 7; and sisters Mary Liz Miller, 8, and Lena Miller, 7 — were held Thursday and Friday.
On Sunday at Georgetown United Methodist Church, in whose cemetery Roberts was buried, the Rev. Michael Remel called for "less violence, less hatred, less evil in the world" — and asked God to "let the world learn the lesson of forgiveness that came from our friends, the Amish."
County Coroner G. Gary Kirchner said one of the survivors, whose parents took her home to die late last week, was returned to Penn State Children's Hospital in Hershey to have her wounds tended to. He said her prognosis was extremely poor.
"My guess is that if she's survived this long, she will continue to be in this state with a mortal head wound," said Kirchner. "It is horrible because it will remind (her parents) every minute of the day of this whole God-awful mess."
Roberts' suicide notes and last calls with his wife revealed a man tormented by memories — as yet unsubstantiated — of molesting two young relatives 20 years ago. He said he was also angry at God for the Nov. 14, 1997, death of the couple's first child, a girl named Elise Victoria who lived for just 20 minutes.
Curiosity seekers left flowers and messages of sympathy Sunday near the West Nickel Mines Amish School, despite "No parking or standing" signs.
Ken Urbany, 57, a prison guard from Philadelphia, had hoped to stop at the school to offer a prayer for the victims but kept driving because of the restrictions.
"It doesn't matter," he said. "The Lord will hear my prayer in my hotel room."