In October 2006, Charles Carl Roberts IV, a 32-year-old father of three, took over an Amish schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, where he tied up 10 little girls between the ages of 6 and 13 and shot them — killing five of the girls in the process — before taking his own life. Following the horrific event, Terri Roberts, Charles’ mother, and her husband thought they would have to move out of town in order to escape being ostracized. But in the hours after the massacre, an Amish man named Henry arrived at the Roberts’s house. The Amish community would not view Terri and her husband as enemies, Henry told them. In fact, he explained, they were going to be friends.
Among those in attendance for Charles Roberts’ funeral were nearly 30 Amish men and women — some of whom were the parents of Charles’ victims — who helped form a wall to block out media cameras from the event and approached the couple to console them over the loss of their son. Within four weeks of the massacre, the Roberts were invited to meet with the families of the victims in a local fire hall. Together, said Terri, they struggled to come to terms with what had happened. Together, she said, they cried.
Today, the Roberts remain connected with the Amish community. When Terri had to undergo treatment for stage four breast cancer in December, one of the girls who survived the massacre helped to clean her house. Around Christmas, Terri would be visited in the hospital by Amish children who sang her carols.
Terri’s life has also become closely intertwined with two of the victims, Rosanna King, 16, and Aaron Esh Jr., 23. Rosanna, who was 6 at the time of the attack, is in a wheelchair, unable to speak or feed herself. Aaron, who was 13 and the eldest boy in the class at the time, is still traumatized by his inability to protect Rosanna and the other girls. Terri has helped take care of Rosanna on a nearly weekly basis since befriending the girl’s family. But forgiveness, as Aaron and Rosanna’s father attested, did not — and does not — come easily.
Read the full story at The Washington Post.