HARRISBURG, Pa. – Every Monday for more than 30 years, the Die Botschaft newspaper has gone into the mailboxes of Amish subscribers nationwide.

Filled with letters from correspondents across the country, the weekly publication prints information from the Amish, for the Amish.

This week’s (Oct. 16) issue, though, is an exception. The front page of Die Botschaft reaches out to the English – non-Amish – world.

“Thank You,” reads the simple headline at the top of the page.

Under that is a three-paragraph message thanking the state police and emergency crews for their handling of the Oct. 2 Amish school shootings in Lancaster County. Gunman Charles Carl Roberts IV killed five girls and injured five others before killing himself.

The message also thanks members of both the English and Amish communities for their kind acts in the aftermath of the tragedy, and thanks people around the world for their donations and prayers on behalf of the victims and their families.

“It has never happened before. Never. This is very unusual,” said the paper’s editor, Elam Lapp, when asked when Die Botschaft last printed information aimed at the non-Amish community. The paper is based in Millersburg, about 20 miles north of Harrisburg.

Equally unusual was Lapp’s decision to contact a reporter at a non-Amish newspaper, offering a copy of the publication.

The Amish customarily do not seek attention. In this instance, an exception was made in order to reach the world with the message of thanks, Lapp said. That decision was made by a committee that oversees the paper, and it had the approval of an Amish bishop, he said.

“There really is no other way for us to reach out, except through the media. We could have printed the message the way we did, but if (the media) didn’t pick it up, who is going to see it?” Lapp said.

The front page of this week’s Die Botschaft – which means “The Message” – also carries a prayer, two verses of the hymn “How Beautiful Heaven Must Be” and a short message on forgiveness.

The front of the paper’s second section is filled with “Thoughts From Our Grieving Community.” Those messages were excerpted from letters from the paper’s network of correspondents.

Inside are obituaries for the five dead girls and a call for showers of cards and letters for the families of girls who were shot.

Absent are in-depth news accounts of the shootings. Even most of the reports from correspondents in the local Paradise and Georgetown areas give few details.

The most gripping of those letters, from Enos K. Miller, grandfather of two of the girls killed, recounts the struggle to identify the children and the race to the hospitals where they were taken.

Other newspapers might have carried such an account on the front page under a huge headline. But Miller’s story was found near the bottom of page 48 of the 60-page paper, with no special headline, just bold type denoting where the report was from. Every item in the paper is treated the same.

None of the details of the scene in the schoolhouse, prevalent in non-Amish media, appear in Die Botschaft.

“Everybody knows what happened. Why did we need to put it in the newspaper? We need to pick up the pieces and heal,” Lapp said.

“We like to think about, dwell on, things that relate to healing and forgiveness, not to go back and dwell on the actual event.”


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