Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Nickel Mines

I have a connection to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. It will always hold a special place in my life.

Although I grew up in the mountains and coal country in the western part of the state, I came east to attend Franklin and Marshall College in the City of Lancaster. Over the four years I spent there, I learned the countryside, became friends with long time county residents, met and married my wife, and even managed to sell a car to an Amishman (a long story for another day).

Those of you in the United States, and perhaps even Canada, have probably seen the news from Monday. A local delivery man entered a one-room Amish school house and took the girls hostage. Although his plan to molest them failed, he killed five girls and critically wounded several others before killing himself. Nickel Mines, where this happened, is only 20 miles from our house. Even though we've never driven through it, many times we've passed close on our way to Strasburg.

We purposefully chose to live where the two worlds mix, where the long reach of Philadelphia yields to farms and stones houses standing since colonial times. We are near the mid-point between the cities, and we feel part of them both.

Lancaster County is a unique place, and although I do not agree with their reasons, I have a deep respect for the Amish and their way of life. We've forgotten so much of how to meet the Earth on its own terms. We've lost our knowledge of dirt and sweat and the strength of our own backs. Inspired by the Amish, I decided to build a couple pieces of furniture in college with nothing but hand tools. I've tried to relearn some of the old ways.

There are so many hollows and twists in the road where tourists never go. One room schoolhouses still dot the countryside, and teams of horses harvest fields as the sunset bleeds into the blades of hay. I'll try not to let this crime diminish the magic, but who knows how long such places will exist. The rest of world just punched a hole in this one, and I feel we are all made less because of it. My heart goes out to the children and their families.


Susan Abraham said...

We read about the Amish tragedy straightaway here in Malaysia, Jason. That was really sad although I'd love o hear your tale someday.

What a lovely thought-provoking post designed for self-reflection and one that you do so well.

There's no doubt that Lancaster County holds your heart.
By the way, here's hoping you're well.

Marie said...

We heard about the tragedy here in the UK too. So sad.

Nice photos.

Bernita said...

"The evil that men do lives after them, the good is often interred with their bones..."

Bosbefok said...

It sure is a confusing mix of thoughts that are provoked when reading about this tragedy. One would associate a crime like that with a bustling city - not a calm, serene environment like an Amish village.
It is really sad that their simple lives should be shattered like this. I hope their community can come to terms with it and they can find solace and comfort from their closeness.

Jaye Wells said...

It was a horrible event that we all mourn whether it was an Amish schoolhouse or a Colorado public school. The scariest part for me is that no matter where you are or what you believe you can't protect or insulte yourself from insane violence.

briliantdonkey said...

No doubt that it was saddening news to hear. Who knows what causes people to do such horrible things to each other? It is unfortunate that no matter where you are noone is totally immune to it.My thoughts an prayers are with that community and especially those families.


Wilf said...

So awful, yet the Amish have only talked of forgiveness and would have the murderer's wife to the funerals. An attitude worthy of awe, I think.

beadinggalinMS said...

Great post Jason. There is no words I can express my feelings of sadness over the recent school shootings. I will never understand why someone would hurt and kill innocent children or anyone.

Anonymous said...

Susan, thank you, my friend. I'm truly amazed that the news reached Malaysia so quickly. We really are building a global culture with the speed information travels. ** Thank you for your well wishes too. :)

Marie, thank you for letting me know. :)

Bernita, so true. Evil has a potency in our minds which goodness does not share.

Bosbefok, as Jaye points out after you, no matter what lengths these people have gone to, they are still at the mercy of what others choose to do to them.

Jaye, that's what makes this so hard. You really can't hide, can you?

BD, this man must have been totally unhinged. Only insanity could answer how a person devastated by the death of his child could shoot 10 children in the head in cold blood.

Addy, I was moved too by their expressions of forgiveness. The reach of their religion will help them through this.

Beady, yes, the innocence cuts at your heart. Amish children are amazing. I've never seen any child more earnest or behaved. Their culture is very different.

Anonymous said...

The Amish practice in a lot of ways is very admirable and exactly what each of us are called to do. This principle of forgiveness is a cornerstone of so many beliefs and faiths, and yet so many ignore it. The Amish are wise in not judging but forgiving, as most sacred scriptures speak of: as you sow, so shall you reap, meek for meek and measure for measure it will be returned to you. By their actions and their love of everyone, they will reap many bountiful blessings.
I have known some Amish in Minnesota, and while their lifestyle is not for me, I do admire their ability to hold the world at bay and follow their beliefs.

normiekins said...

there is NO conscienceable reason to harm a child let alone a fellow human being.

anne said...

Nothing scares me most than to see that children's lives mean nothing to some. I hope the families who were touched by the tragedy will find some measure of comfort in their close-knit community.

fringes said...

My heart goes out, too, Jason. Thanks for the post.

Jude said...

Suffering of any kind is always sad. My heart goes out to all who suffer in and out of the news.

Jeff said...

A terrible tragedy. :(

Bev said...

and its been a rough week in our area too....we live in Southern Colorado and we are hearing both about the Amish girls and the victims of our own school tragedy...

It has been said that the moral character of a nation is weighed by the way it treats its children...I concerns me that we are loosing site of that...

Anonymous said...

JimmyJames, thank you for your words. Much wisdom there.

Normiekins, I think about the other girls still living. Only 1 of them sounds hopeful at this point.

Anne, they have a great deal of support.

Fringes, thank you, my friend. :)

Jude, thank you for your kind words.

Jeff, so very sad.

Bev, very sorry for your own area's experience of violence. I worry sometimes about whether the extreme media coverage gives people ideas for these crimes or even a reason to commit them (e.g., the notoriety).

mermaid said...

'We've forgotten so much of how to meet the Earth on its own terms.'

I don't think you in particular have.

'The rest of world just punched a hole in this one...'

Very graphic, both with the visuals and sound of that single act.

It doesn't surprise me that your family has chosen to live in between to remember both the world 'outside' and still show reverence for the Earth.

Anonymous said...

Among the many other things the Amish know, they have a deep understanding of the path to healing. When you clong to hatred and anger and desire vengeance, you never heal.

You know I'm an atheist. This morning we listened to a good piece on this tragedy on NPR, and I told Luther that I have always admired the Amish because they live by their religion. They don't just talk about God and then do the opposite of what God asks of them.

In their forgiveness and gentle service, they are always close to their God, and through that connection, they will heal. I don't need to believe in God to see and admire their faith.

Anonymous said...

Mermaid, 'We've forgotten so much of how to meet the Earth on its own terms.' I don't think you in particular have. Such a wonderful compliment, my friend. Thank you! :)

Bekbek, I have mixed feelings. I do admire the strength their faith gives them. I also can appreciate the clear bounds within which their lives are constructed. However, I will always choose the growth of knowledge over static faith. The Amish today are the same as the Amish 100 years ago. To me, the core engines of religion are reinforcement and homogeneity. I believe in advancement and innovation.