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Part of being Amish is giving yourself up to Godís plan, yielding to what God has in mind for you.

After tragedy, Amish mourners find peace in faith

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Hundreds of friends, family members and other mourners came from as far away as Wisconsin, Kentucky Illinois and Michigan to southern Steuben County last week to attend the funerals Friday and Saturday of five Amish men and women who were killed last Tuesday in a three-car crash in Yates county. Some from the Amish community in Norfolk were there as well.

The tragedy has provided a glimpse into the Amish community's views of death and life. Nora Flaherty has more.

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Nora Flaherty
Digital Editor, News

The wakes, funerals and burials for Melvin Hershberger, Anna Mary Byler, Melvin Hostetler, Sarah Miller and Elizabeth Mast, took place in the towns of Jasper and Woodhull, where they lived with their families and communities.

Community elders say dozens of children lost a parent in the accident. One victim, Sarah Miller, left behind 14 children.

The deaths are undoubtedly tragic, but Amish mourners are likely viewing them somewhat differently than would their “English” neighbors. That’s according to Karen Johnson-Weiner, a professor of anthropology at SUNY Potsdam who works closely with the Amish community. 

"Part of being Amish is giving yourself up to god’s plan, yielding to what god has in mind for you," Johnson-Weiner said. "If you’re amish you know you don’t know, but you must accept, you live a Christian life, follow Christ's example, you accept what’s in store for you."

Johnson-Weiner said the Amish view this life as only a small part of the whole equation. "You’re born, you live and you die. And death is nothing to fear. The Amish see this life as very transitory. It’s the everlasting life you live in hope of," she said. 

The Amish community suspended its regular work late last week to prepare for the funerals: building coffins, digging graves, and figuring out how to accommodate the hundreds they knew would be coming. Non-Amish neighbors helped out as well by doing things like driving long distances and making phone calls.

The driver who caused the crash, Steven Eldridge, has been charged with criminally negligent homicide, and driving while intoxicated.

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