Andrea Rebello's sorority sisters Wednesday remembered the doe-eyed Hofstra University junior at a funeral service in Sleepy Hollow as the perfect classmate and friend -- someone who shared her love of cats, climbing trees and bike riding -- while scoring top grades as she pursued the dream of a college education.
During the 90-minute service at the St. Teresa of Avila Church, about a half-dozen sorority sisters paid tribute to the 21-year-old public relations major who was cut down early Friday by a police bullet in a standoff with an armed intruder at the off-campus house on Long Island.
"We'll take a little bit of Andrea with us, with every step we take in the future, from graduating college, to getting our first jobs, to weddings," said one of the women.
"You were so smart and had such big dreams," another said.
The Rev. Osvaldo Franklin of Our Lady of Fatima in Yonkers, a close friend of the Portuguese-American family, led the funeral service, which was largely in their native language. The Mass was followed by burial at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.
"A question comes to mind," Franklin said. "Why? Why Andrea? In the flower of her youth she left us."
Rebello's silver and black casket was rolled into the church where, as a child, she received her Holy Communion and was confirmed in a ceremony led by Franklin. The casket was trailed by her parents, Nella and Fernando, and her twin sister, Jessica.
At least 300 people filled the wooden pews of the Roman Catholic church lined with stained glass windows.
Andrea's friends and family each took turns lighting yellow, white, purple and red candles in her memory. Jessica lit a red candle for her sister before breaking down in tears and falling into the arms of a friend as they embraced on the altar.
Later, one of her Andrea's sorority sisters, reminded Jessica that they would never leave her side.
"Jess, although the sister you lost can never be replaced, please know you still have sisters to hold your hand and help you through every step of this struggle," she said.
In the audience, dozens of Hofstra students, many wearing white ribbons in Andrea's honor, stifled sobs.
In his remembrance, Franklin recited the phrase from a Bob Marley song that Andrea had beside her 2010 Sleepy Hollow High School yearbook photo: "Love the life you live. Live the life you love."
And her friends recalled an ambitious young girl with a contagious smile who grumbled when she scored a 99.5 percent on a test. They recalled sharing beds at night when one was too scared to sleep alone. And they remembered the staples of their after-hours college life -- Cheez-its, McFlurries, and conversations that rolled deep into the night.
"She lived life to the fullest," one said. "She was strong and that's what we must be in this difficult time."
Another remembered her with a poem: "In life we love you dearly, In death we do the same."
There was no mention of how Andrea died, only how she lived.
But on Tuesday night, at a wake held at a Tarrytown funeral home, sorrow mixed with frustration.
There, Nella Freitas Rebello, Andrea's mother, was so grief-stricken that she had to leave the room during the viewing, one mourner said.
Matthew Holowko, a Hofstra student from Paramus, N.J., said Dalton Smith, the 30-year-old parolee who took his friend Andrea, Jessica and two others hostage, never should have been released from prison.
"It's absurd that this man was on the streets," he said.
Carol Conklin-Spillane, the principal of Sleepy Hollow High School, voiced concern for Jessica, who escaped the house moments before the fatal gunshots.
"The girls were inseparable," she said. "I cannot fathom what Jessica will do."
On Long Island Tuesday, James Carver, president of the Nassau County Police Benevolent Association, defended officer Nikolas Budimlic, who fired the eight shots that killed Rebello as well as Smith, who was using her as a human shield.
"We back his decision 100 percent," he said. "There's only one person responsible for what happened early Friday and that's the ex-con."
Budimlic was treated for trauma at a hospital after the shooting and remains on sick leave, Carver said.
The officer fired eight rounds after confronting Smith as the Hempstead man held Rebello in a chokehold, police said. Smith walked through an unlocked door into the home Rebello shared with her twin sister and two others, demanding money and jewelry, police said. He ordered a female resident to withdraw cash from an ATM.
Smith told her he would kill someone in the home if she didn't return within eight minutes, police said. While at the bank, the woman called 911.
Carver said the call was "never transmitted as a hostage situation" and that the officer believed he was responding to a robbery in progress at the California Avenue home.
Andrea's uncle and godfather, Henrique Santos, has questioned the officer's decision to open fire, saying that he should have tried to negotiate with the gunman.
But on Wednesday, at the service that recalled the life Andrea lived, there was no mention of the shooting.
"May our formal expression of affection for her, may it ease our sadness and strengthen our hope," Franklin said.