Forgiveness is a theme that runs throughout the friendship between Amish families and the parents of the man who shot their daughters 10 years ago.
In 2006, Terri Roberts’s oldest son, Charles Carl Roberts IV, walked into an Amish schoolhouse armed with a gun, The Washington Post reported. He ordered the boys and adults to leave, tied up 10 girls between the ages 6 and 13, and shot them before killing himself.
Five girls were killed, and the rest were injured.
As the parents of a mass murderer, Roberts said her husband thought they’d have to move far away, lest they be ostracized in their community and blamed for not knowing the evil their 32-year-old son was capable of.
Hours after the shooting, an Amish man named Henry arrived at the Roberts’s home. He told them that while Amish families were grieving, they didn’t see them as an enemy, but rather has parents who were grieving the loss of their child as well.
Henry put his arm around Roberts’s husband and called him a friend.
Today, in the sunroom of their Pennsylvania home reads the word “Forgiven”. Written in cursive, it was made for her by her Amish friends, and serves as a reminder of all that she’s lost and gained in the last 10 years.
On the day of Charles Roberts’s funeral, nearly 30 Amish men and women, some parents’ of his victims, came to the cemetery and formed a wall to block out media cameras. Parents who lost their daughters in shooting approached the grieving parents after the burial of their son to offer condolences.
Four weeks later, the couple was invited to meet with all the families in a local hire hall. They grieved together, struggling to make sense of the tragedy.
The Amish families did more than forgive the couple — they embraced them as part of the community. One of the girls who survived the shooting helped clean their home after Mrs. Roberts received treatment for Stage 4 breast cancer in December.
Around Christmas, a large yellow bus arrived at the home, and Amish children sang her Christmas carols.
“The forgiveness is there; there’s no doubt they forgive,” Roberts said.
The Amish families are continuing to forgive 10 years later. It has become tradition for Roberts to host tea for the women in the Amish community at her home.
While for most, forgiveness and acceptance come at the end of a long emotional process, but in the Amish community, forgiveness comes first.