A Tragic Loss Of Innocence

An Amish man is pictured in front of the Nickel Mines Amish School, Monday, Oct. 2, 2006, in Nickel Mines, Pa. A 32-year-old milk truck driver took about a dozen girls hostage in a one-room Amish schoolhouse Monday, barricaded the doors with boards and killed at least three girls and apparently himself, authorities said.
This column was written by CBS News Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith.
I took the long way home from Lancaster County yesterday.

At a one-room school identical to the one where the little girls were shot and killed on Monday, scrub-faced Amish kids played in the brilliant sunshine. They were noisy, energetic. They looked as if they hadn't a care in the world.

As I drove by I kept thinking, "This is what the school yard on Nickel Mines Road looked like Monday morning. What it looked like before that man came."

A few years ago, I worked on a story about the Amish in Iowa. As soon as they are able, every child has serious chores to do. There are no modern distractions or diversions.

One evening I milked cows in a lamp-lit barn with some Amish kids. They were curious and funny ... and innocent of the ways of the world.

It was then that I realized that the Amish lead their separate life in order to maintain their innocence. It's what makes Monday's shooting all that much more tragic.

Harry's daily commentary can be heard on manyCBS Radio News affiliates across the country.

By Harry Smith