GEORGETOWN, Pa. – Photos capture the somber dignity and amazing grace of the Amish of Lancaster County as they buried their murdered daughters Thursday.

Preceded by two mounted police officers, horse-drawn hearses led three slow processions of buggies and carriages through the tranquil farmlands – and directly past the killer’s house – to a hilltop graveyard.

Relatives of gunman Charles Roberts kept vigil outside his house, sobbing as the corteges went by. Many of the Amish mourners nodded to them as they passed.

One of the four handmade coffins buried Thursday contained the white-clad body of Marian Fisher, 13, the eldest of the 10 girls shot Monday when Roberts turned a one-room schoolhouse into a slaughterhouse.

Marian faced death with remarkable bravery, according to new details that emerged Thursday after one of five surviving witnesses was removed from a ventilator and could speak again.

“Shoot me first,” the girl told Roberts, bravely offering up her life in an attempt to save her terrified younger classmates.

Then another of the older girls stepped up and said, “You can shoot me second,” according to Mennonite midwife Rita Rhoads.

“They were hoping maybe if they offered themselves, the younger girls would either be saved or rescued in time,” Rhodes said. “It really showed a tremendous amount of courage. It’s really amazing that girls of that age would offer themselves up. I know a lot of adults who wouldn’t do that.”

She said she heard the account from Marian’s grandfather, Bishop Ruben Fisher, who talked to Marian’s 12-year-old sister Barbie in her hospital bed.

Barbie Fisher also related that after Roberts cleared the schoolhouse of the boys and adults, and tied the 10 trembling girls together by the ankles in a row by the blackboard, he began a rambling discourse.

“At some point, the shooter asked the girls to pray for him. The girls were kind of amazed and surprised by that,” Rhoads said.

Roberts and five of the girls he gunned down died. A sixth – a 6-year-old – was disconnected from life support Wednesday and taken home to die, officials confirmed. The other four remain hospitalized, two of them in very grave condition.

Buried Thursday were Fisher, Naomi Ebersole, 7, and the Miller sisters, 8-year-old Mary and 7-year-old Lena, interred in hand-dug graves near their ancestors. Anna Mae Stoltzfus, 12, will be laid to rest there Friday.

As the dozens of buggies and carriages clopped past in bright October sunshine, many of the black-clad Amish men and women peered at the shuttered Roberts’ house.

Outside the house next door, Lloyd Welk, grandfather of Roberts’ widow, Marie, stood grim-faced, clutching the hand of his wife, Lorraine, as she sat in a green plastic chair. His wife was sobbing.

Marie Roberts’ aunt, Jackie Hess, was also present.

“I felt that I needed to be here. We knew them all,” she said. “It helps us to know that they forgive us.”

Marie Roberts is in seclusion with her three children, Abigail, 7, Bryson, 5, and Carson, 18 months, planning her husband’s funeral. She was invited to attend at least one of yesterday’s ceremonies.

Marie Roberts reached out to Bishop Fisher, asking to meet with the families of the victims.

His response was relief, the midwife Rhoads said.

“He said, “I was hoping they would want to meet with us,”‘ she said.

“I’m sure it will help with the healing process,” Rhoads added. “She’s grieving for the victims’ families. The victims’ families are grieving for her.”



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