POTSDAM - Instead of harming relations, the connection between the Amish and non-Amish in St. Lawrence County may have been strengthened as a result of last week’s alleged abduction of two Heuvelton sisters.
The massive search by law enforcement agencies - along with an outpouring of support from neighbors and volunteers - showed the Amish community that their non-Amish counterparts will rally to their assistance during a crisIs, according to several people interviewed this week.
In that sense, some Amish people said they feel safer than ever. That feeling was reinforced by the girls quick return and an awareness that the outcome could have been much worse.
The girls, ages 7 and 12, were allegedly released by their captors about 24 hours after they came up missing Aug. 13 from their roadside vegetable stand. Two Hermon residents are accused of kidnapping and sexually assaulting the sisters.
Levi Zook, an Amish farmer of Connor Road, Potsdam, said the response from outsiders was almost overwhelming.
“We were grateful with how protective the English people were toward the Amish,” Mr. Zook said. “It was amazing how people responded. In some ways we feel safer.”
His brother, Jacob Zook, 33, of Buckton Road, Winthrop, said he was impressed with the local, state and federal law agencies who worked together to find the girls.
“I’m pretty proud of our local law system, how they got in, got on the case and got something done,” he said. “I think they need a big thank you.”
They said neighbors were also helpful at providing updates as the kidnapping situation unfolded. Without telephones or TVs, the Amish often rely on others to provide them with information during emergency situations.
Mose Yoder, Route 11B, Potsdam, said one of his neighbors is a member of the Hopkinton Fire Department who volunteered in the search.
““Everybody was upset, Amish and English together. We all realized it could happen to anybody,” the 36-year-old said. “I had a lot of people stopping at the farm stand to let me know what was happening.”
St. Lawrence County Sheriff Kevin M. Wells said Amish families are well-respected county residents who pay property taxes and work hard as they raise their families. He said many Amish are providing police with leads to follow as the case continues to be investigated.
“The Amish know there is only a miniscule part of our society that’s evil,” the sheriff said. “Everybody else is looking out for their neighbors.”