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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
This picture of Rachel Futterman was displayed at a memorial on the USF campus in Tampa.
[JOLIE MYERS | Times]
Mourners walk with a volleyball through Riverside Memorial Gardens in Jacksonville Tuesday after the funeral of Rachel Futterman. Friends at the funeral described the 19-year-old as, "fiery, witty and strong," with a love of volleyball and speaking her mind.
JACKSONVILLE - As Rachel Alistair Futterman lay dying from a sudden sickness, her mother, Tamera, lay alongside her, holding her hand, massaging her feet and singing her the words from a childhood song: "Do you know the muffin man?"
As he left the hospital Saturday night, her brother, Robert, recalled his last conversation with his sister earlier that week. He remembered to say, "I love you."
If there is anything to learn from the death of Futterman, a 19-year-old University of South Florida sophomore who contracted bacterial meningitis, it's to show love more often, family friend Barbara Burns told an audience of more than 300 people at Futterman's funeral Tuesday. The funeral was in Jacksonville, where Futterman's family is from.
Mourners spilled out of the chapel, flooding the lobby and filling it with whispers and sniffles. In the hallway and in side rooms, unusually young mourners listened to the memorial over the intercom.
Futterman's father, Joel, called the afternoon "an instantaneous nightmare and dream." He looked out with joy at the people whose lives intersected with Rachel's, adding, "Then you stop and think why we're all here, and it's overwhelming."
Flanking the room were two blackboards displaying photos of a woman who beamed happiness. She posed in various settings: skiing, basking at the beach, holding an electric guitar, making funny faces, hugging her friends.
"It could have been any of these girls that were here," said one mourner.
The service, conducted partially in Hebrew, was peppered with references to the senselessness of her quick demise.
Rabbi Stefan Weinberg recalled a prayer spoken around the world last week for Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, that now seemed prophetic, he said. The human being is "like a fragile vessel, like the grass that withers," Weinburg said.
Speakers tried to convey her joy for life. Her father described her as a person with two speeds - sleeping and full throttle.
Amber Powers recalled her glee when Futterman joined her sorority in spring 2007.
"My best friend was now my sister," she said.
Weinburg expressed the family's hope that life would continue by having Futterman's organs donated. Seven transplant teams worked to salvage organs that will help seven people, the rabbi said.
Hebrew resounded through the chapel as Allan Robuck, a singer who said he trained Futterman and many of her friends for their bat mitzvahs, closed the ceremony in a cappella.
Outside, clouds shielded the sun as the crowd trudged across the street to the cemetery, where a green tent shaded the family's seats.
"I just can't believe we're here," Tamera Futterman said, her sobs echoed by a circle of sorority women and friends.
The mother and father took a pinch of dirt from Israel and, reaching over the casket, Joel Futterman gently guided his wife's reluctant hand open and back.
In a gesture of giving away what cannot be reclaimed, mourners scooped dirt from a dust-colored pile and dropped it into the grave, the young burying the young.
The family has requested that donations be made to Meningitis Research Foundation, www.meningitis.org/helping-us/ways-to-give.