A year later, Taconic victims remembered
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They were gathered, the Rev. John O'Farrell said, to "celebrate the memory of three angels, three stars in heaven."
Hundreds of mourners packed the Our Lady of Victory Roman Catholic Church in Floral Park Monday to mark the loss of three of their community's youngest, who died a year ago in a fatal wrong-way wreck on the Taconic State Parkway that killed eight people.
"Then and now I say the same: too young, too soon," O'Farrell said.
At the front of the church sat Warren and Jackie Hance, who lost their daughters Emma, 8, Alyson, 7 and Kate, 5. Warren Hance's sister, Diane Schuler of West Babylon, was driving the three girls and her own two children home from an upstate camping trip when - drunk and high on marijuana, according to police - she drove southbound onto the northbound lanes of the parkway.
Schuler drove her minivan head-on into a sport utility vehicle carrying Guy Bastardi, 49, his father, Michael Bastardi, 81, and friend Daniel Longo, 74, all of Yonkers. Only Schuler's son Bryan, now 6, survived the crash. Schuler and Erin, her 2-year-old daughter, also died.
Some 20 miles away, the Bastardi family also remembered those who were lost that day, celebrating communion with an engraved gold chalice and paten donated by the family.
"We are all blessed because [the three men] lived great holy lives and they join the company of the saints," the Rev. Thomas Valenti told a Yonkers gathering.
Back in Floral Park, O'Farrell tried to urge the congregation to move forward from the tragedy, saying, "Life is not ended. It's changed but it's not ended."
O'Farrell asked reporters to leave the Our Lady of Victory Roman Catholic Church for the 10 minutes that Warren Hance spoke at the Floral Park Mass to thank the community for their support and to ask them to now consider his daughters angels, O'Farrell said.
"We don't pray for them. We pray to them," O'Farrell said Hance told the congregation, which included children wearing lime green shirts and bracelets in honor of the three sisters.
Diane Schuler's husband Daniel was unavailable for comment Monday.
The mass also brought to mind a more recent Floral Park tragedy, in which three camp counselors perished in a crash on the Meadowbrook Parkway July 15.
"It's incredibly unnatural for a parent to bury a child. It should never happen," O'Farrell told the congregation. "But it did, and it did again this week, and it will happen again."
The best Floral Park can do, he said, is to mourn together, and continue living life together.
While the Long Island congregation remembered the Hances, friends and relatives of Longo and the Bastardis gathered for a memorial Mass Monday morning at St. John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church in Yonkers.
The names of the Bastardis are engraved on the chalice and paten, vessels used to serve Eucharistic bread and wine to the congregation. Valenti noted that all three worshipped regularly at the old stone church where the families attended funeral Masses last year at this time.
Michael Bastardi Jr., of Yonkers, said afterward: "It's good for us to be here to honor them. It's a sad situation." The sister and daughter of the Bastardis, Roseann Guzzo, of Yorktown Heights, said: "I'm sad. I get comfort from the priest. They're in a better place."
Another sister, Margaret Nicotina, of Yonkers, said the year has been draining. "It's been a bad year. I honestly think it's never going to be over. They should be here with us," she said.
On Sunday, the family had gathered at the same church to honor the memory of their mother, Rachel, who died on July 28, 2007. The Longo family declined to speak.
With Michael Amon