Mourners for Alexis Pilkington arrived by the hundreds Thursday, overflowing the funeral home parking lot, their cars clogging the Village of Babylon's streets.
Her classmates from West Islip High School came by the busload, her soccer teammates wearing matching jackets, others carrying more than 20 collages of photos featuring the popular 17-year-old.
In all, about 2,000 people gathered on an overcast, cool afternoon Thursday in a parking lot near a small lake on the grounds of the Boyd-Spencer Funeral Home to say goodbye to Pilkington, four days after she took her own life in her family's home.
"There is a hole in my heart that will never be healed, but with your support, that's how we're getting through," said her father, Thomas Pilkington, a New York City police officer, his voice ringing out clearly over a public address system.
The emotional service followed allegations that online bullying on a social networking Web site contributed to her death. Thursday, her family and friends said that, while the nasty comments deepened their pain, they had nothing to do with her death.
Many described Pilkington, often called "Lexi," as a tough-minded competitor who charged hard on and off the field, a prankster who once smeared bird droppings on an opponent's hand during a postgame handshake.
"Lexi did not give in to cyber-bullies. She's a Pilkington, and anyone who knows us Pilkingtons knows we don't give in unless God asks us to," said an aunt who spoke at the service.
"Her charm would overwhelm you, her sarcastic wit could knock you down, but her goofiness would lift you back up," she said.
The gathering had an informal feel. Brightly colored sneakers peeked from below some teens' dark slacks. Most of the dozen or so friends who took turns at the microphone spoke without notes and hugged or cried as they recalled soccer games and late-night outings with Alexis.
Pilkington's brother, Jared, 22, asked the audience to depend on each for support.
"When you think of Lexi, hold your head up high and put the smile on your face like she always did for us," he said.
The speeches brought friend Ciara LeBlanc, 18, to tears.
"I think what moved me the most was when people were talking about Alexis," LeBlanc said. "You got to hear how she touched people's lives in so many different ways."
Pilkington lived her whole life in West Islip and was a midfielder on the team that last year brought the school its first Long Island Class AA soccer title in more than 20 years. She graduated in January and was to attend Dowling College on a partial soccer scholarship. Her mother, Paula, wore a team jacket bearing Lexi's number 7.
Rabbi Ronnie Kehati ended the service with a Hebrew prayer. Then the crowd parted to allow Pilkington's teammates to pass through to an indoor memorial featuring an urn bearing her ashes, surrounded by the photo collages. One of her favorite songs played in the background: the Beastie Boys' "You Gotta Fight For Your Right to Party."
Funeral home manager Charles Spencer was struck by the outpouring.
"This was a very special girl," he said. "This was a girl who was well loved and active in the community and who will be remembered."
With Chau Lam
and Bill Mason.