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The horrific shootings in Nickel Mines, Pa., created a situation that often looked like a clash of cultures but, to reporters, didn’t always feel like one. Satellite news trucks next to horses and buggies made for dramatic images, but what one PEOPLE correspondent remembered most was how hard the Amish tried to communicate at a simple, human level. “I was just struck by how gracious and polite the Amish were to me, despite being in the midst of the worst tragedy to hit their community,” says Nicole Weisensee Egan. “I saw stoic, grown Amish men cry while trying to explain their feelings about what happened—but they were never rude to us.”

Over and over, says Egan, the Amish emphasized one thing: They hoped everyone would learn from the forgiveness they showed the shooter, Charlie Roberts. Among the 1,400 hundred readers who have so far sent condolences through people.com (see below), many took that message to heart. “When I think of how the Amish have forgiven the family of Charlie Roberts, it puts so much in my life in perspective,” wrote reader Sylvia Santos. “If they can forgive, then I should be able to forgive also.”

Many readers have asked how they can help the families whose children were injured or killed. Several funds have been set up; for a list of names and addresses, please see the link at http://www.people.com/amish.