Pennsylvania's Amish won't ever forget what happened last fall, but they're determined not to let the tragedy define them, either
Recently, Whiteside and Woerth pulled out a photograph showing local Amish schoolboys during a visit , dressed up in firefighting gear, the long pants puddling at their feet. "We took them on firetruck rides-we broke every rule that day," Woerth said with a wide smile.
Ten days after Whiteside's sad tour of Nickel Mines, the snow is now almost gone, revealing the thick black mud that testifies to the richness of the soil. And the Bart Township firehouse is again teeming with people. But on this spectacular day, thousands have turned out for the social event of the year-the fire company's 43rd annual fundraising Mud Sale, a day when everything from horses to manure pumps will be auctioned, and the engine bays are filled with bidders who want to take home a local quilt.
The Amish community is out in force, turning the grounds into a sea of blue and black punctuated by the golden straw hats worn by the men and boys. Rows of buggies in the distinct Lancaster blue-gray wait for the auctioneer's call, and groups of boys in mud-spattered rubber boots stand shoulder to shoulder, transfixed by the offerings at a candy stand. Though well before noon, the lines at the french fry and soft-pretzel stands are already a dozen deep.
Just outside the firehouse, Fisher, cochair of the event, stands in the warm sun and revels in the day. "It does my heart good," he says, "knowing that the Amish and non-Amish can all come together and have good relations."
Mike Hoover, the township's quick response services director, who was instrumental in the days after the shooting, is working the public address system. "This is an event that brings back some normalcy," he says, before turning back to the microphone.
It's a different normal, to be sure. But for the people of Bart Township-Amish or not-it's an encouraging start.