SEYMOUR, Mo. (AP) -- A hit-and-run accident took the life of one of their own, yet members of an Amish community have forgiven the truck driver charged with leaving the scene.
Instead of harboring resentment over the death of Leah Graber, a 44-year-old mother of 13, the Amish sat down with the driver over the weekend and talked "family to family" about building friendships and preventing similar tragedies."We believe it's just an accident that happened," said Josie Schwartz, who owns a buggy shop along the county road where Graber was killed. "It may have been part of God's plan for Leah."
The Amish hoped the meeting would be the first step in mending strained relations with their neighbors near Seymour, a community of 1,700 east of Springfield.
At the meeting, the two sides discussed ways to get the state to widen shoulders along the road north of Seymour to better protect the buggies.
The two-lane road, dotted with horse manure and tire skid marks, has been the focus of tension between the Amish and their neighbors for the past 10 years or so, as both buggy and automobile traffic has increased, said Amish farmer Harley Beachy.
"I would say 99 percent of the traffic is courteous. But every once in a while, when someone drives up close, you wonder," he said.
Sherry Jones, manager of a sandwich shop near the intersection of the road and U.S. Highway 60, says she frequently sees near-misses. She wonders why the Amish can't convert to using automobiles.
"Those trucks spook the horses so bad, it doesn't seem fair," she said, adding that some of the misses appear intentional. "They (the Amish) have their friends, but they also have a few enemies."
The Missouri Department of Transportation says a project to build the shoulders is worthwhile but would be very costly.
Instead of widening the highway, others say lowering the speed limit along the hilly road from 55 mph to 45 mph would help.
"I'm really surprised we don't see more accidents the way some people drive so fast," said Brian West, who lives along the road.
Last week's accident -- the first buggy fatality along the Webster County road in Schwartz's 32 years here -- should serve as a lesson for neighbors to take more care when they see Amish along the road, he said.