Saturday, November 19, 2005

Schrock Family Update II

I want to thank all of my readers for their prayers on behalf of Jeff and Carolyn Schrock. The following is an update concerning Mr. Helm and Jeff's on going situation. I encourage prayer for Mr. Cliff Helm especially, it is apparent that the state will probably seek charges against him for the wreck that claimed the five children of Jeff and Carolyn Schrock. Also pray for Jeff's physical healing and for his and Carolyn's emotional and spiritual health to continue strong dispite this tragic loss.

The following comes from The Roth Report #219, Saturday, Nov. 19, 2005; for a personal subscription e-mail,

Court documents obtained by News4 show Washington State Patrol detectives are pursuing vehicular homicide charges against Cliff Helm. Investigators believe that Helm's driving caused a head-on collision that killed the five Schrock children on Highway 395 two weeks ago.
Physical evidence and witness statements suggest Helm had control over his pickup -- even after he swerved into the center median -- yet he still was not able to avoid the collision. Witnesses say Helm looked like he was accelerating as he drove the wrong way on Highway 395 in the seconds before the collision.
In a statement released Tuesday, the Schrock family says "though our grief is great during this time of the loss of five precious children, we have reason to daily thank God for his abundant care and provisions for us. We will never forget the sense that our great loss and sorrow was shared by the entire Spokane area." [KXLY; 11/15]
Jeffrey Schrock, the father of five children who were killed in a Spokane County car crash earlier this month, was moved to St. Joseph's Hospital in Chewelah today for therapy and care.
Ruth Hertzler, a member of Pine Grove Mennonite Church, said that Schrock "is recovering well and was in good spirits" before he left Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane. In a statement to the community released through Hertzler, Jeffrey and Carolyn Schrock said they feel "blessed and humbled to have experienced the outpouring of concern and sympathy from the Spokane and Chewelah communities."
They were especially grateful to the physicians, chaplains, nurses, therapists and staff at Sacred Heart; the Washington State Patrol; Lauer Funeral Home; Calvary Spokane; Hansen Logging for helping with funeral arrangements; the media; and others who provided them with physical, emotional and spiritual support.
"We will never forget the sense that our great loss and sorrow was shared by the entire Spokane area, for which we thank you all," the Schrocks wrote. "Our prayer is that God will abundantly bless all who have touched our lives during this time of grief and sorrow." [; 11/15]
The following is from the Mennonite Weekly Review article by Robert Rhodes, Some of this is an overview of previous reports.
CHEWELAH, Wash. — The quiet scene outside Jeff and Carolyn Schrock’s home seemed to crystallize everything the family had lost in the previous week. There in the yard, according to a relative, were all the reminders of the five children who no longer lived there — toys, tricycles, a swing set, even a lonesome dog.

“The house was locked, but outside, you could see so many signs of children,” recalled Carmen Schrock-Hurst of Harrisonburg, Va., a cousin to Jeff Schrock. “How on Earth will these parents ever be able to go back into this empty house? I cannot imagine the many layers of memories they have to unpack and sort through.”

Schrock-Hurst and nearly 1,500 other people had gathered Nov. 7 for the funeral of the five Schrock children — Carmen, 12; Jana, 10; Carrina, 8; Jerrill, 5; and Creig, 2.

The children were killed around 4:20 p.m. Nov. 1 when their father’s pickup, headed south on U.S. Highway 395 near Spokane, collided head-on with a northbound truck driven by Clifford Helm of Deer Park. Helm’s vehicle had crossed the grassy median and, for reasons still unexplained, had driven the wrong way for more than 1,200 feet before the collision.

Jeff Schrock, 38, was seriously injured in the crash and was taken to Sacred Heart Hospital in Spokane, where Helm, 55, also is recovering. The children, all of whom wore seat belts, are believed to have died instantly, though one passerby told authorities he reached one of the children while she was still breathing and tried to help. Struggling for breath and gravely injured, however, the girl quickly died, the motorist said.
The children’s mother Carolyn, 32 — who is due to deliver the couple’s sixth child in December — was waiting for her family to pick her up in Spokane after a shopping trip. She was informed of her children’s deaths only after authorities had taken her to the hospital, where her husband lay clinging to his own survival in the hours after the crash.

On Nov. 5, Carolyn Schrock visited Helm in his hospital room, where she expressed her family’s forgiveness and concern for the welfare of the man many in the region have held responsible for one of the worst highway wrecks in recent memory. Church members said the Schrock family had heard that people were disparaging Helm, and wanted to send the public a different message.

“There is also another family who is sorrowing today, perhaps from a different perspective, but their chasm is great, too,” the Schrock family said in a statement. “We met the Helm family . . . and had a meaningful time. It was as if we were seeing into Sandy and Cliff’s souls. We saw their acceptance of proffered forgiveness and their expression of release from the thing that held them. It is a very special memory."

“There were some hard things said of the Helm family that were not from us. We feel and pray for them. Love builds bridges. Hate digs graves. May the seeds of love and forgiveness that have been planted this day grow and the leaves be for our healing.”

Meanwhile, at the site of the wreck, someone had set out two flower arrangements with the word “forgiveness” on a ribbon between them, according to news reports.

The deaths galvanized the Schrocks’ tiny faith community, centered on Chewelah’s small Pine Grove Mennonite Church, part of the independent Western Conservative Fellowship. The Schrocks had moved to Washington from Oregon a few years ago to help the new congregation prosper. They run a furniture-making business nearby.

According to Schrock-Hurst — whose uncle is Jeff Schrock’s father, Jason — the funeral for the five Schrock children was an emotional, faith-filled gathering that attracted a variety of people touched by the family’s tragedy.

The initial service — which Jeff Schrock was able to attend with the help of a medical crew — was held in Calvary Chapel, a large Spokane church. Afterward, mourners drove the hour’s journey to the Chewelah church, where the Schrock children, buried in a single grave, were the first to be laid to rest in the congregation’s cemetery.

“Perhaps the most vivid memory for me [was] sitting at the funeral watching the procession,” Schrock-Hurst said. “After the service, which was an hour and 20 minutes, they had everyone walk past the open caskets, all 1,500 people. It took an hour. We were some of the last to go since we were seated in the relatives section.

“It was just so amazing to see so many different kinds of Mennonites and Russian immigrants in their scarves, and Amish and Shriners in their uniforms and paramedics in their uniforms . . . and so many, many children.”

Throughout, Schrock-Hurst said, the children’s parents — Jeff propped in a specially-equipped wheelchair to cushion his many injuries — looked on. Nearby, two paramedics kept watch.

Schrock-Hurst said local response to the tragedy has been touching, with total strangers expressing condolences when they meet other members of the Schrocks’ plain-dressed church and offering everything from money to help securing motel rooms for out-of-town visitors.

“The firm faith in the providence of God and God’s ability to make something good out of this tragedy will see these people through,” Schrock-Hurst said. “The strength of community and depth of church support will undergird them. But it will not be easy, and the pain will last long after the newspaper coverage ends.”