Mourners pay respects to crash victims
Procession of more than 1,000 community members line up to say goodbye in Amsterdam
People at the back of the line outside the church talked with others huddled around them, sharing stories about the victims.
But as time passed, and people got closer to the entrance, it grew silent.
The reality set in. It was time to say goodbye.
Hundreds at Amsterdam’s St. Stanislaus Roman Catholic Church paid their respects Friday afternoon at the wake of eight of the 20 people killed during Saturday’s limousine crash in Schoharie.
The wake was for four sisters, their husbands and brother of one of the husbands; Abigail (King) Jackson, Adam Jackson, Mary (King) Dyson, Robert J. Dyson, Allison A. King, Amy (King) Steenburg, Axel J. Steenburg and Richard Steenburg Jr.
Also Friday at a funeral home in Amsterdam, mourners paid their respects at the wake of Patrick Cushing, another crash victim.
“This has been difficult,” U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko said as he left the wake for the eight victims. His eyes were tear-filled, his voice shaky. “It’s unnatural to lose so many people from a small town. But everyone just wants to be there for the families.”
The four King sisters and the oth-
ers remembered were Amsterdam-area natives heading on a birthday celebration outing to the Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown when the limo they were riding in crashed just before 2 p.m. on an intersection near the Apple Barrel Country Store in the town of Schoharie.
A total of 18 people inside the vehicle, including the driver, were killed, as were two visitors to the region who were standing nearby the crossroad of routes 30 and 30A.
Most of the victims were from Amsterdam, a community that continues to grapple with the tragedy.
“I can’t think of anything like this happening before,” Peter Diana, who was paying his respects Friday, said. “How do you even begin to deal with this? How do you tell the kids who lost their parents? An entire family is just gone.”
More than 1,000 people showed up to the King wake. The line extended out of the church and wrapped around the block.
“People come together in times of need and this is a difficult time,” Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara said as he left the King wake and was heading to the Cushing wake. “This is one of the most difficult times I have seen.”
From family, friends, politicians, colleagues, former classmates, fraternity brothers and former teachers, people from all walks of life attended the calling hours.
Virginia Mee said she had been watching news of the crash, earlier in the week, when she recognized three of the victims — Abigail (King) Jackson, Allison A. King and Amy (King) Steenburg.
“I was their eighth-grade English teacher at Lynch Middle School,” Mee said.
Mee had not spoke with or seen them in years, but that didn’t matter; her heart broke for the women and their families.
“It was devastating,” Mee said. “They were wonderful and vivacious women.”
Tonko also recalled receiving news of the crash.
He said he had received a text, the morning after the crash, informing him that it was possible some of the victims were from Amsterdam, but he never imagined so many were.
“When you first hear the names you may not have known all of them,” Tonko said. “But you soon find out that you went to school with one of the victim’s uncles, or knew their friends or went to the same gym as them. Everyone is impacted by this.”
And the impact showed as over a span of five hours, people continuously walked into the church.
When they came out, there was still silence.
“Sometimes,” Santabarbara said, “there are just no words.”
Amsterdam football captains Trey Ausfeld, left, Andrew Giaimo, center, and Peyton Ausfeld carry the jersey of limousine crash victim and former Rams player Adam Jackson to the coin toss before their game with La Salle. Above, mourners leave St. Stanislaus Church during a service for eight of the victims.
mourners enter St. Stanislaus roman Catholic Church to attend calling hours for eight Schoharie limo crash victims on Friday in Amsterdam. The funeral service will take place at the church on Saturday.