HARRISBURG, Pa. – The most severely wounded survivor of last year's Amish schoolhouse massacre uses a wheelchair and must be fed through a tube, but has shown slow, steady progress since the shootings, according to a statement Wednesday.
As the anniversary of the Oct. 2 massacre nears, the committee formed to handle donations to the community issued a detailed statement on how the Amish have fared since the shootings that left five girls dead and five others injured, saying the community's strength has helped the families cope.
"To the casual observer 'life goes on' in Nickel Mines, with its daily and seasonal demands of work, school, births, family and church, but for the families each day brings with it the pain, grief and questions that remind them of their loss," the group wrote.
The group also confirmed that no public memorial events are planned on the anniversary, but the school that was built to replace the scene of the shooting will be closed for the day.
Four of the five injured girls have been in school since December. The fifth, Rosanna King, who was 6 at the time of the shootings at the West Nickel Mines Amish School, suffered a severe head injury and is unable to talk, uses a reclining wheelchair and must be fed by a tube.
Her family said in the statement that she "smiles a lot, big smiles" and recognizes family members.
A second severely injured victim recently underwent reconstructive surgery to improve her shoulder and arm. A third girl still suffers vision problems from a head wound.
The committee said that reaching out to others who have endured similar tragedies has also been part of the healing. It disclosed that family members recently traveled to Blacksburg, Va., to meet with Virginia Tech officials and families affected by that deadly school shooting and to deliver a "comfort quilt."
The West Nickel Mines Amish School was torn down in the wake of the shootings by gunman Charles C. Roberts IV, who killed himself as police closed in.
Roberts, a 32-year-old father of three who lived about a mile away, tied up the girls and shot them after ordering the boys and adults to leave the school. Investigators found evidence he was haunted by his infant daughter's death in 1997 and by an uncorroborated memory of having molested young female relatives 20 years earlier.
The school building's replacement, New Hope Amish School, was built with added security features in a safer location a mile away.
"The children are reported to be enjoying their classes, but they keenly miss the girls who died," the committee said.