On October 2, 2006, an employed church-going husband and loving father named Charles Carl Roberts IV entered a one-room schoolhouse in West Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania and took the teacher and students hostage. After allowing some of his prisoners to leave, Roberts then lined up the remaining ten students, all girls, and began to shoot them. He killed five and wounded five others before killing himself as police broke in to the building. His suicide notes gave a variety of reasons for his actions, including a history of sexual molestation and anger at God.
What astonished the world after these deaths was the reaction of the local Amish community which reacted not with anger or frustrated calls for vengeance but with compassion for the killer and pity for his family. A spokesman said, “I don’t think there’s anybody here that wants to do anything but forgive and not only reach out to those who have suffered a loss in that way but to reach out to the family of the man who committed these acts.” Amish residents attended Roberts’s’ funeral and embraced his relatives. These extraordinary examples of Christian behaviour helped healing in the lives of all concerned. The killer’s wife, Marie Roberts, said that she and her three young children had been overwhelmed by the community support. “Your love for our family has helped to provide the healing we so desperately need,” she wrote. “Gifts you’ve given have touched our hearts in a way no words can describe. … Your compassion has reached beyond our family, beyond our community, and is changing our world, and for this we sincerely thank you.” Terri Roberts, the killer’s mother, still volunteers to care for one of the victims, confined to a wheel-chair for life.