Friday, October 06, 2006

Why isn't our world safe for little girls?

IN SCENES of quiet dignity, four of the five victims of the schoolroom killing of Amish children have been laid to rest in an area of southern Pennsylvania called Paradise.
A sixth victim has been removed from life support and taken home to die.
State police riders led a long line of black horse-drawn buggies from the small settlement of Nickel Mines to accompany the body of Naomi Rose Ebersole, 7, to her grave.
When the procession arrived in neighbouring Georgetown, mourners with impassive faces framed by black hats and white bonnets stared out from within their cabs. Georgetown was home to Charles Roberts, the killer who barricaded an Amish school on Monday, tied up its girl pupils, then murdered five and seriously injured five more in a barrage of gunfire.
His former neighbours lined Route 896 in an expression of solidarity with the bereaved. Amish elders requested that funeral ceremonies take place away from the public eye. Security was tight, with police snipers posted in the village and at checkpoints.
Later on Thursday, the scenes were repeated, with the bodies of sisters Mary Liz Miller, 8, and Lena Miller, 7. The last funeral of the day was that of Marian Fisher, 13. The fifth victim, Anna Mae Stoltzfus, 12, was to be buried yesterday.
A sixth girl, Rosanna King, was taken off life support at Penn State Children's Hospital on Thursday, said Rita Rhoads, a nurse and midwife who delivered two of the victims, as she waited for the funeral procession.
Rosanna, 6, was taken to her home, overlooking the site of the massacre. Doctors said it was likely she would die.
Four others remain in hospital with gunshot wounds. The victims' families have forgiven Roberts, in accordance with the traditionalist Christian group's respect for the Gospel message of forgiveness, Ms Rhoads said.
The grandfather of one of the victims visited the Roberts family on Monday to convey that, and Roberts's family is expected to visit the victims' families after the funerals, she said.
Ms Rhoads also said relatives of the victims told her that the girls showed courage in the classroom and that parents were glad they were not abused by Roberts, suspected by police of planning to molest the girls.
"They knew they were going to be shot, and nobody begged not to be shot," Ms Rhoads said.
The victims' mothers and other women dressed the girls' bodies in white from head to toe, in accordance with Amish tradition, a process that gave them a chance to grieve in private, she said.

Each girl was buried in a plain pine coffin, using no metal, in accordance with the Amish belief that all human remains should return to dust.
Amish funerals are simple events. Vots, or oral invitations, are extended by the bereaved to those attending the ceremony. Yet the day had threatened to be much more tumultuous than it turned out.
A church group that blames such tragedies on divine retribution for America's permissive morals had planned to hold a demonstration at the event.
But members of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, accepted a deal from a radio program for one hour of airtime in exchange for a promise not to disrupt the funerals.
The threat prompted a group of bikies to arrive on the scene with the intention of shielding the families from any protest.
Burly men wearing leather vests and bandannas chatted with dark-suited Amish elders, one more surreal image in a week of such images.
The mourners assembled in their buggies or arrived on foot. After a prayer session at home, the bodies were removed for burial. In a cemetery atop a small hill, graves had been dug by Amish men on their knees, clawing at the earth with their hands.
One Amish man, Sam Stoltzfus, 63, said his faith honoured the dead above the living.
"A funeral to us is a much more important thing than the day of birth, because we believe in the hereafter," Mr Stoltzfus said. "The children are better off than their survivors."
As the funerals began, fresh doubt was cast on the killer's claims that he was driven by guilt. In suicide notes, Roberts, a 32-year-old milkman, said he had abused two family members 20 years ago. After interviewing the women, police reported neither could recall any molestation.
Psychologists said anger, not guilt, was a more likely explanation.
"This is an adult killing helpless, vulnerable children," said Professor Robert Sadoff, a forensic psychiatrist at the University of Pennsylvania. "Clearly this was suicidal. Apparently, he wanted to make a statement to show how angry he was."
Roberts also wrote of his unending anger at the loss of a prematurely born daughter, who would have been nine this year.
Telegraph, London; Reuters

It is hard to understand how it ever got to be so dangerous in the world to be a little girl. Those beautiful little ones of such tender years to have to safe such cruelty is just saddening beyond measure.

The eldest one that showed such courage as she asked to be shot first. Few of us would be so brave as adults. She had the most bullet holes. 20 I understand from other articles. She had hoped that her volunteering would reduce the number of victims or offset some of the brutality.

The man also had brought with him lubricant, some type of tie-downs, and some screws. It appeared possible that he was going to assault them and his history would reinforce that suspicion. Thank God that they were spared that.

I admire the Amish people who have extended their forgiveness and who have reached out to the family of the killer. Although it is the right and Christian thing to do the strength that would take so quickly and so early on is unfathomable to me.

I pray for the mothers and fathers of these little girls and for that whole community.

I also pray that one day it shouldn't have to be such a scary world to be a little boy or girl.


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