WARREN - "In spite of the dark clouds that hang over our eyes and over this family today, I believe beyond the shelter, if we look hard enough, we can see the sun."
Pastor Samson Murray began his eulogy for Andrique L. Bennett with those words during Monday's funeral at Triedstone Baptist Church. Bennett was one of six teens killed in an auto accident March 10, shocking a community and eliciting an outpouring of grief.
"We are here today to do something all of us wish we didn't have to do," Murray said amid the cries and tears of those present. "But God made the call, and all we can do is answer that call."
Hundreds turned out for the service, which lasted almost two hours inside the church sanctuary, celebrating the life of the 14-year-old affectionately known as "Butter."
The funeral followed extended calling hours, which saw a steady stream of mourners pay their respects to Bennett. He was an eighth-grader at Willard K8 School.
"We are here today to honor Butter," Murray said. "If you look at the program, you can see him with those big eyes, getting ready to rule the world. And if Butter would have stayed alive, surely he's one of those young men that was a leader. He was headed somewhere."
In attendance was Mayor Doug Franklin, who took to a funeral podium for a third time on Monday.
"I've been to three funerals today and the outpouring of love is just amazing," Franklin said. "As sad as I am, I'm just as much encouraged by the outpouring of love and respect our community has shown during this tragedy."
State troopers investigating the accident on Niles Warren River Road S.E. say Bennett was a passenger in the sport-utility vehicle. The driver, 19-year-old Alexis Cayson, lost control of the vehicle and overturned, landing upside down in a pond. Along with Bennett and Cayson, four other teens were killed in the crash and two other passengers were injured.
Deceased are Kirklan Behnar, 15; Dylan Ray, 15; Brandon A. Murray, 17; and Ramone J. White, 15. Injured in the accident were Brian K. Henry, 18, and Asher C. Lewis, 15. All are from Warren.
Franklin noted the grieving process will take time, and he urged those in attendance to continue supporting the family and friends of those killed.
"To the family, first and foremost, we can't even begin to understand the level of pain you are having to deal with," Franklin said. "I want you to know that the city of Warren and our entire community is mourning with you. We're going through this process with you. That is going to be the case not only in the days ahead, but the months and years.
"I want you to know that our community is tired. Our community is weary. But, our community is stronger as a result of this," he said.
Bennett's service consisted of a processional, several readings of scripture, a public prayer, acknowledgments of cards, condolences and reading of Bennett's obituary, several inspirational hymns and the eulogy.
Bennett was interred in Pineview Memorial Park Cemetery.
Murray said the size of the overflow crowd as proof of the impact Bennett had on people in the community.
"Butter was loved by so many," Murray said. "All of them couldn't get into this place, and I'm not sure we have a place big enough in Warren when it comes to Butter. He was a short young man, but everybody thought he was about 10-feet tall. It's amazing and he was a leader. We thank God for the 14 years with his mom, dad, brothers and friends. We thank everybody."