Her family had chosen the church for its size. But even the vast St. Andrew Catholic Church in Coral Springs couldn’t hold the hundreds of mourners attending the funeral of Carmen Schentrup, 16, who died in the Feb 14. shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Outside the church, cars overflowed into neighboring fields, yards and streets. Inside, mourners in black struggled to find seats, some electing to stand in the back of the sanctuary. Red-eyed teenagers embraced in the aisles, while an organ played in the background.
As clergy, choir and family moved toward the altar, the crowd fell silent. The Episcopal service was somber — but punctuated by politics.
“We are stooped over, doubled up in pain,” said the Rev. Canon Mark Sims, rector of St. Mary Magdalene Episcopal Church in Coral Springs, the family’s parish. They held the service at the Catholic church because it was larger.
Their community was wounded, Sims said, but they would not hurt in vain.
“Today, we mourn. Tomorrow, we rest. But then, we act,” Sims said. “We are heading to Tallahassee. Soon, politicians and lobbyists will be out of jobs.”
As Sims addressed the crowd, a hand-drawn portrait of Carmen sat at center stage on a stand framed by blue curtains.
Sims described Carmen’s love of black dresses, red lipstick and teal-colored bags. He recalled her love of piano — she seemed to trail marked-up sheet music, he said — and how, when seized by an idea, she’d barge into his office and explain, matter-of-factly, how he would help. The audience laughed.
Carmen’s parents, April and Philip Schentrup, didn’t speak publicly at the service. They had already shared thoughts of Carmen in a statement on Sunday, where they remembered their daughter’s humor, kindness and strength.
“When she was 12, she had major surgery that resulted in four major rods sticking out of her leg for months,” they wrote. “Not one to pass up a good joke though, she would often come up with funny stories about her scars, like when she said she got them ‘running with the bulls.’”
The straight-A student was selected as a National Merit Scholarship Finalist. But Carmen never knew about the honor. She died the day before the announcement.
Her parents described their daughter as a bookworm, with a penchant for Sci-Fi, fantasy and comedy. She read over a hundred books a year, which might explain why people often thought her older than her age.
“She recently joked people had been asking her how she liked college since she was a freshman,” her parents wrote. But, “she was still a kid at heart. She was silly, playful and huggable. We miss her hugs.”
In addition to her parents, Carmen is survived by her older brother, Robert, younger sister, Evelyn, and an array of cousins, aunts and uncles.
At the conclusion of the service, family members guided Carmen’s casket out of the church. Her mother lingered by the hearse, eyes closed, with one hand on the coffin. Then Carmen’s parents and siblings released three white doves into the sky.
When the last dove had disappeared, dozens of students headed to the parking lot and onto charter buses bound for Tallahassee. Wednesday, they’ll meet with Gov. Rick Scott and other politicians to advocate for gun reform.
In his sermon, Sims had spoken at length about Carmen’s aim to change the world.
“She is counting on all of us to pick up where she left off,” Sims said.