Written by Cynthia Paulis Wednesday, 14 May 2014 00:00
In the dark of Sunday night, hundreds of family members, friends and neighbors gathered on Conklin Street at a makeshift memorial of candles, flowers, teddy bears and photos of Tristan Reichle, Jesse J. Romero, Carly Lonnborg and Noah Francis. The next day, Cody Talanian was pronounced dead at the Nassau County Medical Center.
Amid the tears, sobs, hugs and candles, broken glass and parts of a tail light glistened on the pavement next to the skid marks. All the while, traffic roared down Conklin Street.
Family members of 14-year-old Carly, her parents’ only child and the youngest of the children killed in the early Saturday morning crash, held a poster showing the beautiful young girl cuddling a dog. Two balloons rose above the poster, each emblazoned with the word “Love.”
“Carly was like an old soul, but she knew exactly what she wanted,” said a cousin. “She loved a cheetah print.”
All of her famlly members wore cheetah-patterned ribbons in her honor.
“He was a good kid, he was always the one to tell us to keep ourselves out of trouble," Taylor Cincotta said of 17-year-old Tristan. “The last thing he would say to a lot of us was ‘Be safe, Be good.’ I can’t believe he is gone now.”
Taylor, who placed flowers on the memorial, spoke of how she and Tristan had been friends since the sixth grade, and were slated to graduate together from Farmingdale High School in June. Earlier in the day, he brought Tristan’s mother a bouquet of roses for Mother’s Day.
“Tristan was a really outgoing person, always positive,” Taylor said. “He was the last person we ever expected to go so soon. He was not a risky person...he never was one to live on the edge. I have driven with him in the car and he was always very cautious: made sure you
have on your seat belts, 'make sure you sit back I need to see my mirrors.' He was very cautious, it’s such a shame.”
“Tristan was a genuine sweetheart,” said friend and fellow student Jennifer Benitez. “He was the nicest kid. No matter what, he had your back. He was a wonderful person, and it’s so sad to see him go like this. We were 46 days away from graduating.”
Jesse, 18, also was a soon-to-graduate senior.
“Jesse loved skateboarding,” said Jennifer. “Anytime I would see him he would always make someone laugh, and he would make me laugh. He was hilarious.”
Rony Torres was tight with Jesse.
“He was a great skater,” he said, “and he used to help me skate.”
Just an hour earlier, as the sun set, the bells tolled at St. Kilian’s, and close to 1,000 people filled the church for a memorial mass. Outside, nearly 2,000 more listened to the service on speakers.
“The purpose of this service is to pray to help our families, to help all of you to go from doubt to faith,” said Monsignore Michael Flynn.
Members of the St. Kilian clergy lit candles, illuminating the congregation. As the people filed out, many crying and almost all with moist red eyes, volunteer firefighters and emergency medical personnel with the Farmingdale Fire Department flanked both sides of the steps as the church bells rang.
Father Flynn thanked the firefighters and EMS, and the crowd applauded them. Then family members went up to each firefighter, and thanked them for their service and their help during this tragedy, hugging each one and shaking their hands.
Mayor Ralph Ekstrand, along with members of the village board, exited the church with tears in his eyes.
“Dalers get together and they unite, and they will help everybody get over their grief and their needs,” Mayor Ekstrand told the crowd. “It is just amazing how Farmingdale comes out and supports one another. This is something that no one will ever get over, but we will try to help them cope with this.”
And as the mourners, many holding flickering candles, walked in the dark toward the memorial, with its pile of flowers and tributes to the dead, the only sound louder than the sobbing was the thunderous rumble of traffic on Conklin Street.