GEORGETOWN, Pa. – The Amish community grieving the loss of five girls shot in a schoolhouse say they have been overwhelmed by gifts from the outside world — about $700,000 in donations so far.
The money is expected to go toward short- and long-term medical bills, transportation costs, counseling and other needs. At the request of Amish leaders, a fund has also been set up for the gunman's family.
Charles Carl Roberts IV, a 32-year-old milk truck driver and father of three, took 10 girls hostage at the West Nickel Mines Amish School on Oct. 2 and shot all of them, killing five and seriously wounding the others before committing suicide. One girl is not expected to survive.
Members of the Amish have not sought the gifts, in part because their religion teaches them to care for themselves. But they also believe that giving is a way of grieving and say they do not want to deny others that experience.
They believe "it would be un-Christ-like to deny other people the blessing that comes from giving," said Herman Bontrager, a Mennonite businessman who is serving as a spokesman.
"There's still a reasonable possibility that a couple of girls might have needs for a long time to come, if not for the rest of their lives," Bontrager said.
On Monday, church bells tolled in memory of the attack a week earlier and the fire department delivered donated flowers, stuffed animals and school supplies to an undisclosed site that will be used as a temporary schoolroom.
"Their objective right now is to get back to life, as normal as they can," Bart Township Fire Company spokesman Mike Hart said Monday.
Amish officials have not yet decided when classes will resume at a new site, or when the community might raze the one-room schoolhouse. Some wonder if the students or their families may want to see the old school at some point.
"They want to make sure that everyone has as much closure as they need," said John Coldiron, a Bart Township zoning official.
The five girls buried last week were Anna Mae Stoltzfus, 12; Marian Fisher, 13; Naomi Rose Ebersol, 7; and sisters Mary Liz Miller, 8, and Lena Miller, 7.
Bobbi Roschel, 24, an emergency medical technician who treated one of the victims, stopped to pray at Middle Octorara Presbyterian Church in Quarryville.
"The hardest part is you just wanted to pick them up and hold them," Roschel said.