Heartbreak In a Small Town

10/05/2006 at 12:00 PM EDT

Heartbreak In a Small Town
Dorotea Kinney (left) and daughter Annette Parke comforted each other at an Oct. 3 vigil.
MATTHEW CAVANAUGH/EPA/CORBIS

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A red-haired little girl who liked gardening and reading, 8-year-old Rachel Ann Stoltzfus was blissfully unaware of most of the evils of the outside world. But when Charlie Roberts, 32, a troubled local truck driver, barged into her one-room Amish schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, Pa., on the morning of Oct. 2, armed to the teeth and with a heart full of hate, young Rachel didn't flinch. Speaking in an even tone, Roberts ordered the children to lie down. He then began to tie up the 10 girls, ages 6 to 13, and ordered the 15 boys and four adults to leave. Rachel Ann's brothers John, 12, and Samuel, 6, who were among those who fled, were struck by their little sister's courage and composure. As their brother Melvin told PEOPLE, "Rachel Ann stayed very calm."

And the unimaginable happened. Forty-five minutes after entering the school, Roberts shot the 10 girls as they stood facing the chalkboard – a horrific act that left five of the girls dead and five others critically wounded – before turning his gun on himself. The senseless killings were only the latest in a rash of school shootings around the country.

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