Ten years ago this week, a man stole into an elementary school in rural Pennsylvania with a machete and a vendetta.
When he was finished, William Michael Stankewicz had injured 11 kindergartners, two teachers and the school principal, Norina Bentzel. She was the most gravely hurt, requiring four surgeries to reattach and rehabilitate severed fingers, set broken bones and stanch her wounds.
In a profile in today’s York Sunday News, Bentzel, now 51, discusses the incident, healing from trauma and her process of finding forgiveness. It was something she couldn’t have done without her faith, she said.
Bentzel attends church weekly and there recites the Lord’s Prayer — one line of which gives her particular strength.
“‘Thy will be done,’” she said. “For whatever reason, this was out of my control and I believe that. … For whatever reason, it was God’s will. He meant for it to happen. And I can only hope and believe that there is a plan, and I’m still on earth to hopefully fulfill whatever that plan is. And I just don’t want to miss it.”
Looking back on the day of the attack, she sees God’s fingerprints everywhere. Like the nagging feeling on her way out of her office to turn around, go to the phone and call her son. That phone call put Bentzel next to the window through which she saw Stankewicz trying to get into the school.
After she came home from the hospital, a particular get-well card caught her eye. She couldn’t decipher why — it was an ordinary-looking card with Bible verses printed on the cover.
She walked by it on her dining room table for three weeks before it hit her.
“It was the ending of the first verse: ‘The lord is with you wherever you go,’” she said.
The verse is from Joshua 1:9, which is significant because the phone call she felt compelled to make the morning of the attack in 2001 was to her youngest son, Joshua, whose birthday is Jan. 9, she said.
“That just told me volumes about my faith and how strong it is and how I was guided that day,” she said.
“The remainder of the verse is, ‘Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified, do not be discouraged, for the lord your God will be with you forever and ever.’ That to me, is divine intervention.”
Read more about Bentzel’s story.