NICKEL MINES - As they stood, their feet bound, in a line near the blackboard in the one-room schoolhouse, Marian Fisher spoke to her captor.
"Marian said, 'Shoot me first,' " said Rita Rhoads, a midwife who helped deliver Fisher 13 years ago.
Barbie Fisher, 12, spoke up just after her big sister, and asked Charles Carl Roberts IV to shoot her next, Rhoads said. They were trying to protect the younger girls, ages 6 to 13, who were taken prisoner Monday when Roberts barricaded them inside the West Nickel Mine Amish School, Rhoads said.
"He asked them to pray for him," she said. "I think that's amazing. He recognized they had something he didn't."
Rhoads learned about the exchange from the Fisher family, who were able to talk to the younger daughter in Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Barbie Fisher is recovering from gunshot wounds. Her big sister was buried Thursday.
This bloody and confusing debacle began its slow, quiet end in a secluded cemetery where cold soil now covers the bodies of Marian Fisher and three other Amish girls.
Shrouded in white and encased in wood, Fisher, Naomi Rose Ebersole, 7, Mary Liz Miller, 8, and her sister Lina, 7, were buried by hundreds of family and friends in Georgetown Amish Cemetery. As mourners helped shovel dirt on the caskets, a bubble of police protection shielded them from the unwanted attention of a transfixed nation but not the relentless autumn wind.
Anna Mae Stoltzfus, 12, the fifth girl to die after being shot by Roberts, will be buried today.
In addition to Marian Fisher, Rhoads helped give birth to Naomi Rose. She attended their viewings Wednesday, but thought the families should be alone for the burials.
Instead, Rhoads, a Mennonite, served as unofficial liaison between the intensely private Amish community and reporters, talking about how the families are coping and explaining how the Amish conduct funerals.
The partitions in the family home's main floor were removed and two rows of benches set up, with men and women sitting on opposite sides, Rhoads said. The funeral services typically last for about two hours and focus on mortality and the afterlife, rather than celebrating the life lost.
Excerpted from 'Shoot me first' victim said, by Mike Wereschagin, Oct. 6, 2006, Pittsburgh-Tribune Review