The young pallbearers clutched the handles on the cherrywood coffin of Michael Mulhall, 22, feeling the weight of carrying someone their own age as they filed into Our Lady of Victory Roman Catholic Church in Floral Park for a funeral.
It was the second day community members, Camp Anchor staffers and family and friends of three camp counselors killed in a car crash last week squeezed into the church's pews, lined the sanctuary's walls and surrounded the building outside.
Mulhall was killed in a Meadowbrook Parkway crash July 15, along with fellow counselors, sisters Jamie and Paige Malone. All were from Floral Park. The sisters' funeral and burial was Monday.
State police, who are still investigating the accident, did not return calls Tuesday. They have had no comment on what might have caused the crash but have ruled out alcohol as a contributing factor.
Tuesday's service for Mulhall began with his three sisters, including Justine Mulhall, 20, the driver of the car, taking turns reading verses of a poem dedicated to Mulhall.
"Our family tree is broken and nothing seems the same," one line read, echoing the words of the poem that was also read Monday at the Malone service. As the end of the verse neared, the sisters' sobs grew. They read together: "Michael, we love you. You were the best big brother."
As at the Malone funeral, more than 500 people attended Mulhall's service and speakers were set up for those who couldn't get inside. Many wore staff T-shirts from Camp Anchor, the special-needs camp in Lido Beach where the victims worked.
Before the service, some of the 65 camp staffers distributed purple ribbons to one another in memory of Mulhall, who graduated from the University of Scranton in May with a bachelor of arts degree in history. Purple is the school's color. Many of Mulhall's family members also wore purple.
The university's president, the Rev. Scott R. Pilarz, delivered the eulogy, saying, "Michael was quintessentially Scranton. He lived life to the fullest.
"As a student of history, he would appreciate the need of remembering," Pilarz said, telling listeners it was their responsibility to keep Mulhall's memory alive.
Kelly Murphy, 20, of Floral Park, who was a passenger injured in the crash, attended the funeral wearing a neck brace. Jamie and Paige Malone's family also attended.
Mulhall's parents, Neil and Peggy, held onto each other and their children for much of the service. A family member, Peter Mulhall, read from scripture, Romans 5:5-11, which in part reads, "And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us."
Pilarz urged those who knew Mulhall to be strong.
"We are a faith-filled family trying to grapple with a loss," he said.
"The realities of life seem almost too much to bear. . . . Wounds will be healed. We have to cling to hope."
With Gary Dymski
and Josh Seidman