Notes of the organist's hymn "Be Not Afraid" carried on the breeze from the church's open stained-glass windows Saturday morning.
More than an hour later, the air was pierced with harsher sounds. A mother's wail as hands held her upright. Classmates' sobs as they carried a casket down church steps. Murmured words meant to comfort but falling short.
In the hours before the funeral, the line to enter the South Philadelphia church was wrapped around it, ending nearly at the doors where it started. Thousands of people — including scores of teens smartly dressed in suits and ties — stood four deep on average, some stopping to hug one another as they made their way to the end of the line. They stood under a nearly cloudless blue sky. As the Mass started at 11 a.m., they stood at the back of Epiphany of Our Lord Church, the pews in front of them long filled. They spilled into and packed the lobby just inside the main doors.
They came to say goodbye to 16-year-old Salvatore DiNubile, a junior at St. Joseph's Preparatory School shot dead Tuesday outside his home. His sister and brother described him during his funeral as loving, loyal, and always there for the people he loved.
"It's just so sad. Like the pastor said, there are no words," said the Rev. John Stabeno, a priest working at Catholic Charities in Camden who grew up with DiNubile's father in South Philadelphia. "The community came together. I hope they remain together."
The day before the DiNubile family buried their son, another 16-year-old, Brandon Olivieri, surrendered to police in connection with the shooting deaths of DiNubile and Caleer Miller, a 16-year-old junior at a Mastery Charter school. Olivieri has been charged with two counts of murder and is being held without bail. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Nov. 15. He also faces gun charges.
What had started as a feud between two groups of South Philadelphia teenagers became a double homicide Tuesday just before 8:30 p.m. on the 2300 block of South 12th Street. According to police, someone shot DiNubile twice in the chest with a .45-caliber handgun and shot Miller, of the 1100 block of Dorrance Street in Point Breeze, once in the chest. Police officers took the teens to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, where both were pronounced dead within an hour.
Police said they believe DiNubile and Miller were on opposite sides of the dispute.
The Olivieri family's house on the 1600 block of South Juniper Street was sprayed with bullets around 1:30 a.m. Friday. Police said two people were inside when the house was struck 14 times, but they were not injured.
Sitting on the steps of Epiphany of Our Lord Church on Saturday after the funeral, Lauren Nemetz said her friend "was a walking angel. He's home now." She said DiNubile was humble, kindhearted, smart, and hardworking. He treated his friends like brothers, she said.
"The sweetest boy you'd ever meet," said Nemetz, 17.
Donald Redcross, St. Joseph's Prep Class of '76, said the loss brought him back to his own school days. One of his classmates was fatally stabbed two weeks before they were meant to graduate together, he said. His son Kyle is in DiNubile's year.
The day after the shooting, Redcross dropped off his son at school as usual.
"I typically say, 'Have a great day,' " he said. That day, Kyle replied: "How can I?"
Hundreds of people stayed in line to sign well-wishes in a register for DiNubile's family, until they finally dispersed half an hour into the service. The number of people at DiNubile's funeral was foreshadowed by the more than 1,000 mourners who came to a candlelight vigil in remembrance of him Wednesday evening.
Thursday night, several hundred people — family, friends, and neighbors — gathered at Chew Playground in Point Breeze to hold a candlelight vigil for Miller. The teen had started school at Mastery's Thomas campus in South Philadelphia a few weeks earlier. People at the vigil remembered him for his bright smile.