Maybe you’ve heard the story, or remember it being mentioned.
If you’ve lived in Pennsylvania for any length of time, you’re probably familiar with the story.
If you’ve lived in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, since October of 2006, you probably remember where you were the day the world stood still and looked your way.
On October 2, 2006, a husband and father named Charlie entered an Amish schoolhouse unannounced and uninvited, shooting ten young girls, five of them fatally, before taking his own life. The boys in that schoolhouse? Charlie told them to run. Filled with terror, they ran for help, any help they could find.
It was too late.
Suddenly, in a small village called Nickel Mines, a small farming community surrounded by tranquil pastures and rolling hills, death seemed to cast a pale grey pall over the land.
Naomi (age 7), Marian (age 13), sisters Lena and Mary (ages 7 and 8), and Anna (age 12), were dead, horribly, suddenly. Five others, spared death, hung in the balance, clinging to what shreds of life remained in their shattered bodies. Stalwart and stoic members of the Amish community ran in terror toward a nondescript one-room schoolhouse, crying out for their daughters.
In a home a short distance away, the remnants of a young family stood shattered, grappling with the reality that her husband, their father, had just done something horribly wrong.
An entire community had nowhere to go. No way to understand.
Emergency responders came, frantically, urgently, hurriedly responding to the cries, only to be shattered themselves at the horrors within that schoolhouse.
A peaceful village, seemingly innocent in many ways, felt the world bearing down on its shoulders that day. Terror, sorrow, sin and death seemed to reign unchallenged. Lives changed in a dark instant.
A surrounding community, seething in horror at what happened in its midst, sprang into action. As the jackals descended, they met staunch resistance. An entire community locked down to protect its own. Roads were blocked by law enforcement, not out of an interest in preserving a crime scene, but out of a formidable desire to protect the community from those who would take advantage. No person would enter that did not belong.
And suddenly, quietly, a still small wind blew. A close knit community, misunderstood in many ways by the surrounding world, began to show the world what community meant. Out of horror, love bloomed.
Grace came down.
Families of victims descended upon that young family’s home, not to condemn, or cry out in anger, but to hold and comfort a young wife and her children. Where death seemed to reign, life sprang forth.
Families, suddenly and decisively shattered, knit together in ways that a world didn’t understand, but caused it to marvel. Caused it to look. To pay attention. And wonder.
Out of death, life sprang forth. Out of darkness, light shined. In the midst of desperation, when no answers came, a community turned to God.
And God was there.
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never overcome it.” – John 1:5