Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Schrock Funeral Update

This update comes from a church member and blogger friend on the west coast. His name is Mark Roth and issues by e-mail his Roth Report. If a subscription to his report is desired you can subscribe by going here: news@anabaptists.org His reports contain many briefs on current news stories from various sources. Some of what follows may repeat a part of previous postings.

The Schrock family has released a statement regarding the deadly accident yesterday.On behalf of the Jeffrey Schrock family, we want to thank all our friends, family, emergency and medical personnel, and community who have shown so much caring and compassion at this time. Your prayers and expressions of love have been a wonderful support to us. We thank God for His love and unlimited grace and strength sustaining us. "He hath loved thee with an everlasting love." Jeremiah 31:3, and "Underneath are the everlasting arms." Deuteronomy 33:27

Yet even while we struggle to understand and cope with the pain and magnitude of our own loss, our hearts go out in compassion for the driver of the other vehicle and his family. We pray that God's physical, emotional, and spiritual healing power be evident in their lives. [MSNBC; 11/2]Schrock Family StatementToday many people are asking the question, "Why? Why did this accident happen? Why did Clifford Helm's pickup cross the median strip and collide with Jeffery Schrock's pickup?" The Schrock family is asking "why?" The Helm family is asking "why?" The Washington State Patrol and detectives are asking "why?" and will spend several months investigating and searching for the answer to the question "why?"

In the end, there may be only one who will know the answer to that question and that is God. It may well be that when Mr. Helm's pickup entered the median strip of highway 395, it was no longer guided by Mr. Helm but by God and for reasons only He will reveal as events unfold.
But we believe the question "why?" will be answered in thousands of ways as people respond to the wake-up God is sending to this community and to our nation.

Already, one powerful message emerging from this event is this -- that love, compassion, forgiveness and reconciliation are far more positive forces for good and healing than hatred, scorn, bitterness, and alienation.

God help us all to follow the example of Jesus who said in divine love, "Father forgive them" about those who crucified Him. As we enter this Thanksgiving and Christmas season, let us all humbly seek that forgiveness and become God's ambassadors for the peace and healing of our land. [KXLY; 11/7]

Nearly 1,400 people gathered Monday for the funeral of five Chewelah children killed in a head-on collision between two pickup trucks.

The children's father survived the collision last Tuesday along US Highway 395 and attended the service with assistance from hospital staff.

Carolyn Schrock, the children's mother who was not in the accident, has expressed forgiveness for the driver of the pickup truck that smashed head-on into her family. She has met twice with Clifford Helm, of Deer Park, in a hospital room at Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane.

Jeffrey Schrock is recovering from severe injuries he suffered in the collision when investigators say Helm's truck veered off Highway 395, went about 1,600 feet before hitting the Schrock family. Experts believe he drove the wrong way on the southbound shoulder, swerving off the road once and regaining control before impact. They have, however, ruled out alcohol or medical problems. The cause of the accident remains under investigation. [KXLY; 11/8]

Here's how 1,500 mourners explained the deaths of five Mennonite children, all under the age of 13, all from the same family: By answering in 19 different ways that God, their Shepherd, was calling in his lambs.

But 19 answers don't quell the question: Why?
"We need to consider his wisdom and be satisfied with that," Mennonite deacon Clayton Eveleth told the crowd assembled Monday at north Spokane's Calvary Chapel.

Jeffrey Schrock was able to attend his children's funeral on Monday with the aid of a heavily padded wheelchair and a medical crew. He sat beside Carolyn Schrock, pregnant with their sixth child, facing the small white caskets containing the bodies of Carmen, 12; Jana, 10; Carinna, 9; Jerryl, almost 5; and Craig, 2.

The Schrocks wanted Eveleth and two other church leaders conducting the service to emphasize the need to forgive Helm, who had crossed the median and driven about 433 yards in the wrong lane before the crash. It remains unclear why Helm crossed the road.

Carolyn Schrock visited Helm at Sacred Heart Medical Center on Saturday in a personal gesture of forgiveness. The Schrock family photographed the visit and delivered a picture to local media, along with a written account of the visit.

"Love builds bridges. Hate digs chasms" was among the sentiments of the account.
Members of their Pine Grove Mennonite Church had heard hurtful statements about Helm in supermarkets and elsewhere. Concerned, the Schrocks decided to make their gestures of forgiveness public.

"There was a response from Carolyn right from the beginning for the driver of the other vehicle and how he was doing. That's compassion," Dan Hertzler, a Pine Grove congregant and family friend, said away from the service. "Forgiveness is the foundation of the believer's experience."

After the service, a procession of cars more than a mile long meandered up US 395, past the site of the accident and some 30 miles beyond to Pine Grove Mennonite Church cemetery in Valley. There, beneath a dozen canopies and myriad umbrellas, mourners watched as the children's caskets were lowered into the earth.

There were hundreds of mourners from as far as Virginia and Mexico, Guatemala and Poland -- family members and friends familiar with the Schrocks through Bible schools, people who were moved by the magnitude of the tragedy.

In the crowd, as a choir sang, Mennonite women tended to restless children. Some gave their daughters cautionary grasps on shoulders. Others cradled children for a long time as only parents can.

Beside the burial site of her five children, for perhaps the first time in 12 years, Carolyn Schrock's arms lay still at her sides. [Spokesman-Review; 11/8]The emergency responders quickly knew the gravity of the crash last Tuesday that killed all five children of a Chewelah, Wash., family. But for more than an hour, they feared there were even more victims they hadn't yet found.

Some of the responding fire crews from Spokane County Fire District 4 and Fire District 9 worked to free the children from the upside-down, twisted mess of their family pickup, while others stopped traffic to avoid more damage at the crash site on US Highway 395 near Hatch Road.

"We didn't know if that was all or not," District 4 Lt. Larry Helmer said. "We were concerned of maybe having to find more. Thank God it wasn't too long after I took over as incident commander that we found out that we had all the victims accounted for."

Although nearly a week has passed, the grisly recollections remain fresh in the minds of many of the first responders to one of the worst crashes in recent memory. The fire districts have provided counseling to their crews, many of whom are volunteers with their own young children.

When the first emergency workers arrived, they removed 55-year-old Clifford Helm from his pickup and 38-year-old Jeffrey Schrock from his truck. Others quickly worked with hydraulic jaws capable of opening sheets of steel like aluminum cans to carefully extricate the five children.
As a second MedStar helicopter waited on the ground on the chance that any of the children could be saved, a rising fear grew with each tense minute, said District 4 Deputy Chief Dave Phillips.

"In the vehicle, we were fairly certain that we knew what we had. We knew we had five kids," Phillips said. "As each was confirmed deceased on the scene -- as it continued to grow until there were five yellow sheets -- that added the layers of emotion and stress. You could see people realize the immensity of the incident."

Phillips arrived at the crash site just minutes after the accident, in which Helm's northbound 1999 Ford pickup left the roadway, crossed the median and continued the wrong way in the southbound lanes before smashing into the front of the 1986 Ford F-250 pickup carrying Schrock and his five children: 12-year-old Carmen, 10-year-old Jana, 8-year-old Carinna, 5-year-old Jerryl and 2-year-old Craig.

"This one, you could just tell by the dispatcher that this was a critical call," Phillips said. "One of the first things I did with the incident commander was to try to get a good count of how many people we were dealing with."

After securing the crash scene and helping the medical examiner photograph and load the children's bodies, Phillips and Helmer had emergency crews gather in a circle to talk about the crash and what they had seen. Phillips also let them know they would have a debriefing session with counselors to help cope with the range of emotions caused by witnessing the carnage.
"You do your job when you are at the scene," said Helmer, a 50-year-old volunteer. "But afterwards, you think about it. I very much hope I never see my grandson under one of those blankets." [Spokesman-Review; 11/8]

A friend who attended the funeral told me this evening that at the wreck site (about three miles from the funeral site and on the way to the cemetary) somebody had put up two flower arrangements with a sign (?) between them saying "Forgiveness." [Mark Roth]

Yesterday on her way home from the funeral, my wife (and those with whom she was traveling) stopped at a KFC in Spokane. A stranger walked up to them and asked them if they'd been at the funeral. She then said, "I'm so, so sorry." [Mark Roth]