An alien among the grieving

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October 07, 2007|By Glenn Fawcett | Glenn Fawcett,Sun Photographer

One year ago I was sent to Nickel Mines, Pa., to cover the funerals of five Amish schoolgirls killed when a milk truck driver entered their small schoolhouse and unleashed a rampage of death.

When I arrived a day after the killings, hundreds from the national news media had converged, setting up camp with their "sat trucks" and thick cables powering TV camera lights littering narrow asphalt roads. It was a media circus and I was, admittedly, a part of it all in my own small way. Imagine aliens arriving on our planet and the media gathering around their ship that had crash-landed in a field a few hundred yards away: Lights...Camera...You get the idea.

The Amish do not wish to be photographed or reported on, and choose to live their lives outside the public eye. Yet we converged, held back only by the state police. Most of us were balancing the hard task of doing our jobs of keeping the concerned world informed and trying our best to be sensitive to the wishes of the local community.

Several days ago, I found myself back in Nickel Mines, assigned to take picures of children arriving for the day at a new school. Following Mapquest directions back to the small town in gorgeously scenic Lancaster County, Pa., I overshot the intersection where journalists had crowded last year. Without the media horde, the town was almost unrecognizable to me. The wind blew under perfectly blue skies, the silence broken only by the occasional clopping of hooves as Amish buggies came and went.

Again, I was the alien. I stayed back from the school and quietly took my pictures as state police officers looked on from a patrol car. Soon it was time for me to depart and leave the community wrapped in the solitude it prefers.

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