They streamed in by the dozens, dignitaries and private citizens, old and young, to pay their respects to the five fallen members of the Hance and Schuler families.
Under a cloudy sky Wednesday, mourners comforted each other at the Thomas F. Dalton Funeral Home in Floral Park during the wake for Diane Schuler and the four little girls killed in a weekend crash in the lower Hudson Valley.
Heads bowed, some broke out in tears before entering the somber memorial for the three Hance sisters, their aunt, Diane Schuler, 36, and her daughter, Erin, 2.
In the moments leading up to the wake, Diocese of Rockville Centre Bishop William Murphy visited the Catholic family inside the funeral home.
Family friend Doug Hayden, who is also the Floral Park Village justice, said to reporters: "As you can imagine, the only thing they are relying on at this point is their faith, and the love and support of their friends and family."
In what officials call the deadliest highway crash in Westchester in 75 years, Schuler, of West Babylon, drove a minivan with five children in the wrong direction for 1.7 miles before plowing into another vehicle Sunday. Eight people were killed, including that vehicle's occupants and Schuler's three nieces: Emma, 8, Alyson, 7, and Kate, 5. Only Schuler's son, Bryan, 5, survived.
"No words can explain the horror and the tragedy these families are suffering through," Hayden said.
Danny Schuler lost his daughter, Erin, and his wife, Diane, in the crash. Her brother, Warren Hance, and his wife, Jackie, lost their three children.
"Each one of these girls was special to this community," Hayden said. "Each one of these girls were loving and caring and respectful and beautiful young girls who were just admired not only by their mom and dad, but by the community and anybody they touched."
As a light rain began to fall, a delivery man brought a heart-shaped arrangement of pink and white flowers into the funeral home.
"The entire Nassau County family is heartbroken," Suozzi said. "We're going to do everything we can to help this family."
Wednesday night, hundreds lined up for the wake in a steady drizzle, with a line stretching down the block and around the corner.
A funeral Mass is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Thursday at Our Lady of Victory Church, with burial to follow at the Cemetery of the Holy Rood in Westbury.
With Laura Albanese