Although she was only 17 when she died, Dana Sassano was remembered Tuesday as a caring individual and dedicated student who had wisdom beyond her years.
Hundreds of mourners crowded St. Augustine's Church in New City Tuesday morning for a funeral mass for the Clarkstown North High School senior from New City, who was killed Wednesday in an auto accident.
In addition to friends and family members, the church was packed with many Clarkstown students who took time off from school to show support for the Sassano family and to remember their classmate.
"Pain is here. Pain fills this holy place," the Rev. William Cosgrove, pastor of St. Augustine's, said to the mourners. "With the pain is the question why? Why Dana? Why now? That question has no answer."
Cosgrove officiated at the 11:30 a.m. funeral mass that came before Sassano's burial in Gethsemane Cemetery at Rockland Lake. During the mass, Cosgrove described Sassone as a young person who not only took time to do well at her studies, but to also reach out to others in the community who needed help.
"It's not about the number of years you live, but how well you live the years you're given," said Cosgrove. "In 17 short years, what Dana accomplished takes many of us years to learn."
Cosgrove noted that Sassano, an honors student who was a member of the National Honor Society, showed her wisdom and concern for others through her active support for causes such as the March of Dimes, the American Heart Association's Relay for Life, the Heart Club, which raises money for children battling cancer, and for Locks of Love, which collects hair for use in wigs worn by cancer patients.
Cosgrove said it was a fitting tribute to Sassano's life that her parents allowed parts of her heart to be taken for transplants to save the lives of two babies.
As mourners made their way from the church to the cemetery, the motorcade stopped at Clarkstown North High School in New City, where a bouquet of flowers was placed in front of the school sign on Congers Road in memory of Sassano.
"Today it was clear that the entire community, not just the school and the students, lost someone who was very special," said Clarkstown school board president Phillip DeGaetano.
Throughout the day Tuesday signs of the impact of Sassano's death on the community could be seen. At the Clarkstown North girls basketball game against North Rockland, Lady Rams players wore wristbands with the initials "DMS" on them for Sassano. Tuesday night, the Clarkstown Town Board asked local officials and members of the public attending the town's reorganization meeting at Town Hall in New City to take a moment of reflection for Sassano.
Sassano died in a 9 p.m. crash on Dec. 29 near Greenwood Lake in Orange County. She and three friends, all seniors at Clarkstown South High School, were on their way home from a skiing trip to New Jersey. Their car went out of control on a hilly stretch of road and stuck a van, then plunged down a steep embankment.
Dana Marie Sassano was born on April 11, 1993, the daughter of Laura Devaney-Sassano and Joseph Sassano. In addition to her parents, Sassano is survived by siblings Brandon, Nicholas and Kayley Sassano. She was the grandchild of Barbara and Stephen Devaney and Anna and Mathew Sassano.