By KRYSTAL SHETLER
PAOLI, Ind. (AP) — Thirteen months after leaving the Amish, Mary and Edward Lambright were implementing a plan they dreamed would one day allow them to build a new life for themselves outside of the plain world in which they were born.
The couple believed driving semi-trucks and trailers as team drivers would provide the financial stability they needed to start a life in what they call the "English world."
That dream was derailed on Christmas Day, when 23-year-old Mary drove a rig that weighed more than 30 tons over a historic iron bridge on South Gospel Street in Paoli. A sign posted in front of the bridge warned the maximum load was six tons. The size of the truck collapsed the bridge, trapping the vehicle beneath its steel beams.
Mary, who was traveling with her 17-year-old cousin, was cited into court for the accident.
For the first time, she's agreed to tell her story.
Not all Amish are the same. Differences in beliefs separate churches. Mary, for example, grew up in Wisconsin before moving to Indiana as a teenager. Her family would settle into a church near English. The order she was born into was Old Order and strict. Many restrictions were placed upon members and their children. However, the new church allowed many of the things she had never experienced before, such as using nonmotorized scooters, wearing sandals and sporting dresses in pastel colors.
Edward grew up in Orange County. He and Mary did not attend the same church, nor did they know one another before meeting as adults. His church practiced some of the most conservative beliefs of all the area Amish churches.
Mary and Edward met by fate. He had moved to Ohio with his family. When his family sold their farm, Mary's father attended the auction, but the two families still did not know one another. A few years after moving, Edward traveled back to Orange County to visit relatives and friends. The Sunday Edward was in Indiana was the same day Mary was invited to attend church with friends near the Orange County community of Bromer. The two met at church and instantly hit it off.
"He went back to Ohio long enough to get his stuff to move back to Indiana, where he lived with a friend in English, and we attended the same church," Mary said.
The two dated for 14 months and were married in the Amish church.
Five months later, the two left the Amish together. That was September 2013.
"There is too much pressure to do right," Mary explained. "There are so many rules, strict rules, that aren't based on Scripture that you had to follow or you'd get in trouble with the church. Also, once I was married, my place was with my husband. Whatever he decided, I was with him."
The decision to leave the Amish isn't an easy one. Edward and Mary left home to join a society where they practically didn't exist. They didn't have credit, identification, driver's licenses, Social Security cards or an education beyond the eighth grade.
Mary's uncle, who also left the Amish many years ago, lived in Texas, so the couple moved south, where they worked construction, roofing and odd jobs to make ends meet. Soon, however, they moved back to in southern Indiana.
The Lambrights worked to establish themselves. They purchased a small farmhouse near Fredericksburg on contract, secured a couple of used vehicles and worked to make ends meet.
However, the two wanted to get ahead. They yearned to make a life beyond their paycheck-to-paycheck existence.
After a visit to the local WorkOne office, the two decided to try truck driving. WorkOne would pay for the schooling to obtain a commercial driver's license, but that also meant whoever was in training would have to go several weeks without a paycheck.
"Edward worked full time while I went to school, and the plan was that, once I got established, I could work full time driving while he went to school," Mary said. Once they were both CDL certified, they'd work as team drivers and spend their time on the road together.
Mary started training in April 2015. Once she obtained her CDL, she began driving a truck alone. Even though she often worked seven days straight and traveled from Iowa to New Jersey and from Michigan to Texas, it was a dream come true.
"I loved trucking," she said. "It was the best thing ever. I love to drive, love to travel and love to see the country, so I had it all."
Edward headed off for training in October. By the time the holidays came, the two were team driving for Louisville Logistics, a small trucking company with five to 10 trucks and drivers.
After a year of unsteady work, however, the Lambrights struggled financially.
"We were stretched as far as we could go without snapping," Mary admitted.
The Lambrights spent the week leading up to Christmas on the road.
"We were running so hard it got to the point where we were barely stopping the truck," she said.
On Dec. 25, she rolled home, where she dropped off Edward, picked up her cousin and headed to Paoli to drop off the truck so they could attend dinner with friends near English. Edward planned to follow behind to pick up Mary and the girl once the truck was parked.
However, Mary missed her turn, ended up on a side street near the Paoli square and made the decision to cross the historic bridge.
"I didn't realize it was so small. I still can't believe it happened," Mary said. "It was terrible, really, really terrible. I knew the sign was there, but it didn't register in my brain that it was there. I wasn't so scared for me. I was scared for my cousin. I saw the truck tip down and the water rushing up. Neither of us could swim."
Since the accident, life has been a struggle for the couple.
"We came home on Christmas to a cold house," Mary said. "The electricity had been turned off because we couldn't keep up on our bills."
And the two lost their livelihoods. Mary says the two were fired when the company went out of business shortly after the accident. (Louisville Logistics has repeatedly refused to comment about the accident.) Now, Edward works odd jobs "just to keep the lights on and be warm."
"Not only have I ruined my life, but Edward's, and I put the company out of business," Mary said. "It's awful. We are scared to go in public because I am afraid people will recognize me and try to tear me down even more. Right now, we are trying to pick up the pieces and move on the best we can."
Mary will soon begin working in a restaurant, where she hopes to be a cook so she doesn't have to face the public.
"We are just fighting to keep afloat," Mary said. "It was bad before (the accident), but it's even worse now. The rope keeping us up finally snapped."
One day, Mary hopes Edward, at least, can return to trucking. The dream is still alive, she said, but first she must get through the legal challenges she faces relating to the accident. Her next hearing is April 5.
"Life basically turned upside down, so now I just have to keep my chin up and do the best I can."
Source: The (Bedford) Times-Mail, http://bit.ly/1nT32WR
Information from: The Times-Mail, http://www.tmnews.com
This is an AP-Indiana Exchange story offered by The (Bedford) Times-Mail.