Family, friends and others still in mourning over the deaths of four young women killed in a Cutchogue limousine crash earlier this month remembered them Wednesday night with an emotional candlelight vigil at Smithtown High School West.
Three victims of the July 18 crash -- Stephanie Belli and Brittney Schulman, both 23, and Lauren Baruch, 24 -- graduated from the high school.
The fourth victim, Amy Grabina, also 23, graduated from Commack High School.Letter to EditorLetters: Lingering questions on limo crashEditorialEditorial: Limo tragedy shows we need to get seriousSee alsoComplete coverage
They were killed July 18 when a pickup truck broadsided their limo as it made a U-turn on Route 48 after leaving a Cutchogue winery, Suffolk police said.
On a warm summer night, nearly two weeks later, mourners sat in the high school's stadium bleachers while down below those who knew and loved the four spoke from a stage on the football field.
Some in the crowd of several hundred choked back tears as the service began with prayers and recollections of four friends with big goals ahead.
In a statement read on behalf of Grabina's family, a friend told the crowd their presence -- "an outpouring of love and compassion . . . that is what epitomized Amy."
Grabina spoke with pride of her time counting ballots for last year's Major League Baseball All-Star game as an intern with the auditing and accounting firm, Ernst & Young, the family friend recalled.
Schulman was ambitious and focused on a career in fashion, a cousin said, describing her as "poised and curious."
A man who identified himself as a member of Baruch's family said she "was truly a special person who touched the lives of many."
Two sisters of Belli spoke of the bond the siblings shared.
Nearby, four white balloons bobbed gently in a light summer breeze while on stage, poster-sized photos of the victims faced the audience. Flower bouquets rested on both sides.
Mourners in the bleachers clutched plastic battery-powered white candles, given to them by volunteers.
The work of the volunteers helped make the vigil possible, Liz Scarpa-Lauro said Monday.
Scarpa-Lauro spearheaded planning for the vigil with support from the Smithtown school district and the Long Island branch of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
She said that since news of the crash swept through the community, there has "been a total community effort. . . . "We're one big family, not just a community.
Later, when she addressed the crowd, Scarpa-Lauro referred to the four women as "our girls."
A short time later, a woman read a poem called "She is Gone."
"You can close your eyes and pray that she will come back," the woman said, reciting the poem.
"Or you can open your eyes and see all that she has left. "--With Christine Chung