SLEEPY HOLLOW, N.Y. (AP) — They hesitated at first, but then they came from all over the church: young women in black shuffling out of the pews and down the side aisles to the altar, some of them sobbing.
The funeral for Andrea Rebello on Wednesday included a ceremony known as the four candles, and for the lighting of the third candle, Rebello's friends were summoned to take part.
So 40 or more young women, all dressed in black, climbed the altar steps at St. Teresa of Avila Church in Sleepy Hollow, a sight that prompted tears in many of the hundreds of other mourners.
Rebello, 21, a Hofstra University student, was accidentally shot on Friday by police responding to a Long Island home invasion. The intruder was also killed.
The Rev. Osvaldo Franklin, the main celebrant of the funeral Mass, said everyone in the church was wondering why Andrea was killed "in the flower of her youth."
"Only the word of God ... can help us in this time of pain," Franklin said. "Andrea is an angel in heaven, praying for us."
Franklin also noted that Rebello, in her high school yearbook, had quoted reggae legend Bob Marley as saying, "Love the life you live, live the life you love."
The priest gave his sermon in Portuguese as well as English. Rebello had expressed pride in her Portuguese heritage.
Half a dozen of Rebello's sorority sisters from Hofstra spoke about her, some of them choking back tears. They described her as fearless and strong and remembered her as a fan of bike riding, tree climbing and going out to eat on Friday nights.
Many of the 350 or so mourners wore white ribbons on their dark funeral clothes.
At Rebello's wake on Tuesday night, some friends wondered if the shooting could have been prevented and said police should have waited for backup. Earlier, her godfather said there should have been negotiations before shots were fired.
Nassau County police have said one of the two officers who entered the home found the intruder holding Rebello in a headlock and threatening to kill her. The officer fired when the intruder, 30-year-old Dalton Smith, pointed a gun at him, police said. Smith was hit seven times, Rebello once.
James Carver, president of the Nassau County Patrolman's Benevolent Association, said Smith was the only person responsible for Rebello's death.
During the candle ceremony at Wednesday's funeral, Rebello's godparents lit a candle symbolizing grief, an aunt and uncle lit one symbolizing courage, the friends lit one symbolizing memory and her twin sister, Jessica, who was in the Long Island house where Rebello was killed, lit one for love.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.