Tragedy hit on Sunday in an upstate New York community. A young Amish boy lost his life after falling from a buggy. There are not a lot of details, but this is most of the report at news10.com:
New York State Police confirmed that on September 12, troopers responded to a report of an accident involving an Amish buggy on Elmer Road in Moira.
According to Troopers, three-year-old Sam Miller of Winthrop fell from the buggy while it was in motion.
The child was then transported to the University of Vermont Health Network at the Alice Hyde Medical Center in Malone. The child was then pronounced deceased at the hospital.
You don’t hear about this type of buggy accident often, but it is of course a danger. Buggies don’t have seat belts, and some of them are quite open. That includes those without tops, as well as covered buggies like would be typical in the plain Swartzentruber community where this accident occurred.
Such buggies don’t have a front enclosure, and in warmer months at least would have sides rolled up as you can see in the photos below by Don Burke (this is not the NY community in the story, but another Swartzentruber community):
That’s a pretty sizeable opening. A child that small might be riding up front on someone’s lap. I don’t want to speculate on what happened but you can see that a small child could fall through such a space.
Amish life does not come in bubble wrap and safety tape. For example, Amish families generally have a hands-off approach to parenting, more like what was once common in most places in the US in, let’s say, the 1950s, and is still common in some rural non-Amish areas. That doesn’t mean that Amish families intentionally expose their children to dangers (beyond those inherent to their lifestyle), and they do take pains to teach children the dangers of the road, the farm, shop equipment, etc. But, they are about the opposite of helicopter parents when it comes to things like, say, outdoor play.
And some aspects of Amish life are just going to be more dangerous. Buggy travel is an obvious one, though the danger usually comes from motor vehicles. Dairy farming with horsepower is another lifestyle with its own dangers. Lighting dependent on combustible fuels in the home, like kerosene and propane, is another example.
I also think there are degrees of this. What I mean is that life in some Amish settlements and communities (and occupations and even specific families) is going to be more dangerous – for children and adults – than in others. To give one example, some Amish (plainer groups) don’t use smoke detectors in the home. To give an example in the other direction, more progressive Amish wear orange safety clothing (children, and some adults), while walking on the road. You don’t see such bright reflective vests in conservative communities. Amish will not all agree with the lifestyle choices that other Amish make.
And it’s probably easy for some to point a finger here and say these poor parents should have had a safer setup (seat belts? closed sides?), but that’s not the way they choose to live, and so they take on the risks that their choice of lifestyle brings. And again, we don’t know what happened here. It’s not a common thing for a child to fall from a buggy. If it were happening often I am pretty certain they would adapt to prevent it.
At the same time a typical Amish child’s and adult’s life is free, or mostly free, from certain dangers and risks associated with modern English life (both physical and other dangers). Things like drug addiction, high speed car accidents, feelings of isolation and loneliness and the ills they bring, and others you can imagine. Note that I said “mostly”, not “completely”.
All that aside, I can’t imagine the heartbreak this family must be experiencing. Another bedrock part of Amish life that comes into play here however, is the belief that God has a plan. I don’t know this family, but I am pretty certain they are finding some solace in that now, and in the support of their community, which has encircled them in love and care at this time.
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