MOURNERS PRAY after the funeral Mass Oct. 13 at St. Stanislaus parish in Amsterdam for eight of the 20 people killed in a tragic limousine accident in Schoharie Oct. 6. (Nate Whitchurch photo)
MOURNERS PRAY after the funeral Mass Oct. 13 at St. Stanislaus parish in Amsterdam for eight of the 20 people killed in a tragic limousine accident in Schoharie Oct. 6. (Nate Whitchurch photo)

A funeral Mass was offered Oct. 13 at St. Stanislaus parish in Amsterdam for eight of the 20 victims of a tragic limousine crash in Schoharie.
Remembered in prayer were the four King sisters, their husbands and the brother of one of the husbands: Mary King Dyson and Robert Dyson, Allison King, Abigail King Jackson and Adam Jackson, Amy King Steenburg and Axel Steenburg, and Richard Steenburg Jr.

The accident also took the lives of Patrick Cushing and his girlfriend, Amanda Halse; newlyweds Erin Vertucci McGowan and Shane McGowan; Amanda Rivenburg; Rachael Cavosie; Matthew Coons; Savannah DeVonne Bursese; Michael Ukaj; and pedestrians Brian Hough and his father-in-law, James Schnurr. The driver of the limousine, Scott Lisinicchia, was also killed.

“Just one week ago, our lives, our community, changed forever,” said Peter Rose of Betz, Rossi, Bellinger and Stewart Family funeral homes, in a welcoming address to the crowd.

“In a time of so much darkness, so much pain, you will leave here today enfolded in the love of ¬≠Jesus and the love of this community.”

He spoke of how the community would continue to support one another in love, “because we are Amsterdam strong.”

About 800 people filled the church as family, friends and community members all gathered to offer their condolences and support. Prayer intentions mentioned not just the victims and their loved ones, but the first responders and all those present.

Rev. O. Robert DeMartinis, pastor, presided at the funeral Mass. At the front of the sanctuary, eight images of the each of the victims were placed along with the urns that held their remains, with flowers and other objects below the photos.

Father DeMartinis blessed each with holy water as he prayed: “Lord, we commend Abigail, Adam, Mary, Robert, Allison, Amy, Axel and Richard into your hands. We send them into your peace.”

Vincent Rossi read a passage from St. Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, which reads in part, “Do not lose heart....For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”

Boxes of tissues were placed in each pew and used by many Mass-goers. Throughout the service, guests comforted one another and offered shoulders to cry on during particularly difficult moments. During the Lord’s Prayer, a family reached across the pews to clasp hands.

In his homily, Father DeMartinis tried to address the question of why 20 souls were taken too soon. He recounted a story about St. (Mother) Teresa of Kolkata, whom a journalist once asked whether she ever cried out to heaven, “Why,” as she cared for the desperately poor and dying.

“There may never be an answer for that question. The question I would rather ask is who: Who do we put our faith in? Who do we put our hope in? Who do we put our trust in when we see all this filth, sickness and death?...It is Jesus Christ,’” Mother Teresa is said to have replied.

“And that, my brothers and sisters, is what you and I are doing here this afternoon: We are putting all of our hope, all of our faith and all of our trust in Jesus,” Father DeMartinis said.

The pastor spoke of how each one of the victims, while no longer in this world, are now alive with the Lord. He added his assurance that the group was able to celebrate Amy Steenburg’s 30th birthday together with God.

“I can promise you that they had a celebration,” he said. “And that is not a myth; that is not a fairytale; that’s the truth.”

On Oct. 6, the close group of friends and family had been on their way to celebrate Amy’s birthday at Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown when the limousine in which they rode crashed near the Apple Barrel Country Store in Schoharie.

Father DeMartinis recalled how he helped prepare Amy and Axel Steenburg for their wedding day and officiated at their wedding. He brought a painted sign to show during his homily that the couple had made and accidentally left behind after their wedding ceremony.

The sign read, “Please no pictures,” and showed an image of a camera with a slash through it. Below the camera was a message: “We suggest you live in the moment.”

“That is what they are asking you to do today,” Father DeMartinis said. “You and I cannot stay in Oct. 6; you and I must move on. As difficult as it may be, we must live in the present moment, because that is what they would want us to do.”

Moving on will take time for devastated family and friends and the Amsterdam-area community. At the end of the Mass, the families of the deceased came to the front of the church to sign a book of remembrance. Father DeMartinis comforted them as they cried.

Special crosses with the names of the accident victims were to be placed in the church.

“It’s just too much,” one woman exclaimed, shaking her head, as she exited the church.