There is a timeless quality here in the Village of Floral Park.
Flags flutter from lampposts and tightly clustered homes are found on streets with names like Violet and Carnation avenues. Elderly men congregate on the street to sip their morning coffee. A woman in the business district kisses an older man hello.
So when a car crash Sunday killed the only three daughters of lifelong resident Warren Hance, his sister, Diane Schuler, and her 2-year-old daughter, something changed. "I think everybody feels just so devastated for the family that is left and the kids that knew the girls," said Brigidann Turadek, 60. "It's such a sense of loss. It's such a close-knit community. Words cannot really express our grief, this hurt."
A day after the funeral, the village was quiet Friday. Gone were the media crews. Gone were the crowds that filled Our Lady of Victory Church for the funeral Mass.
Still, a community was silently mourning, pulling together the strength to steady one of its own. Firefighters donated money to a fund created in honor of the children. School officials held counseling sessions. Residents attended a noon Mass.
"I think the support from the community really starts the day after the funeral," said Alicia Cancel, who has lived in Floral Park for 20 years. "This is a neighborhood where everyone truly is here for each other. It's a great place to live in good times and bad."
Cancel did not know the family personally. But like so many in the village, she knows someone who knows Hance. "If you don't know the people directly, you have a friend that grew up with someone," she said.
No one leaves Floral Park, Cancel said. People are raised there and leave for college but always seem to return. "There are a lot of lifers here," she said.
Warren Hance is a lifer. He and his sister, Diane Schuler, grew up in Floral Park. Schuler, 36, had since moved to West Babylon. On Sunday, she drove a minivan the wrong way on the Taconic State Parkway in Westchester and struck an SUV head-on. Eight people, including three from Yonkers, were killed. So were Schuler, her daughter, Erin, 2, and the Hances' three daughters - Emma, 8, Alyson, 7, and Kate, 5.
Resident Alan Lesperance knows grief. His wife died 15 years ago. A Floral Park school now has a $500 scholarship in her name, he said. "It's a very supportive town," said Lesperance, 57. "Anybody that knew them will be there for them."
For many people, the only thing they could do to support the family was pray.
Michael Rudden, 68, said he has noticed an increase in attendance at regularly scheduled church services this week. "This brought the community together," he said. "We're just all praying for them."
Floral Park has been through tough times before. Giovanna Roos, 55, remembers when multiple families suffered deaths in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. "It was hard, one right after another," she recalled. "But we made it through.
"The town will stay with these people, we will," said Roos, who has lived in Floral Park for 40 years. "Because that's Floral Park. That's what we do."