Amish community gathers to mourn 5 killed in N.Y. crash
WOODHULL, N.Y. — They came by the dozens in horse-drawn wagons, sedans and pickup trucks, traversing highways and dirt roads unknown to global positioning systems, to gather at the homesteads of the dead and mourn.
As their numbers grew throughout the day Wednesday in the Amish country of Jasper and Woodhull in southern Steuben County, where a day earlier families learned that five of their own had been killed and seven others injured in a grisly traffic accident, everyday labor was put on hold to prepare for as many as 1,000 more mourners expected to journey from Amish communities across the state and Pennsylvania and Ohio.
Young boys mucked stalls, women tended to children, young girls prepared food and men made funeral arrangements, built coffins and dug graves.
"Nobody's working today," said Raymond Miller, 19, walking west along a road in a straw hat and pants supported by suspenders. "Everybody's cleaning up, bringing dishes, getting ready for the funerals."
There is no obvious barometer to gauge the impact of the tragedy on the Amish community here, which is thought to number as many as 150 families, or about 10 percent of all households in the tiny towns of Jasper and Woodhull. Considering that Amish households are much larger than average, area residents estimated the Amish, who settled here in earnest about 30 years ago, make up as much as a quarter of the 3,100 people living in the two towns.
Amish elders, all of whom spoke on the condition that their names not be published, and townsfolk who live and work closely with the community, said that dozens of children lost at least one parent in the tragedy.
One of the deceased, Sarah Miller, 47, left behind 14 children, five boys and nine girls, some of whom are adults but most of whom were living with her and her husband, who has been released from the hospital.
"They're all in shock," said Leon Acker, 72, an "Amish hauler," the designation for "English" people who chauffeur the Amish long distances by automobile.
A steady stream of haulers dropped off passengers throughout the day at the Miller home in Woodhull, where a modest sign advertising hand-woven baskets for sale sat at the end of a long gravel driveway.
On the grounds, women in black dresses and bonnets cradled children in their laps under the shade of a porch roof. Young men in slacks and long sleeves arranged benches for a funeral service and barefooted boys baled hay for the horses that are sure to come.
"They're all pulling together, helping the families and doing what needs to be done," said Misty Draper, who closed her hair salon in nearby Addison to lend a hand to the community with her husband, including driving overnight Tuesday to pick up an Amish boy in New Berlin, more than 150 miles to the east . "I'm making phone calls, driving, doing whatever is necessary."More...