SPRING VALLEY, N.Y. — Flowers flanked a white casket containing the body of a young mother Thursday along with three balloons — one for each of the children who died in her minivan when she drove it into the frigid Hudson River.
The funeral for LaShanda Armstrong, 25, came one day after her youngest would have turned 1.
Armstrong loaded her four children into the van April 12 after an argument with the father of her three youngest and drove down a boat ramp in Newburgh. The oldest child, 10-year-old La’Shaun Armstrong, escaped and survived.
“We all know that life is full of questions,” the Rev. Naomi Lauture told mourners inside a packed First Baptist Church in Spring Valley. “LaShanda loved God, and God loved LaShanda, and nobody can stop that.”
|Lshanda Armstrong (R) with Jean Pierre, the man who is of Haitian parentage and the father of three of her four kids.|
The Rev. Weldon McWilliams said, “All those who say she shouldn’t have done this: You weren’t there.“
Some 300 mourners sat in pews and on folding chairs and another 100 stood in the back of the church and along the walls.
Among the mourners was Maeve Ryan, who found a shivering La’Shaun near the river and took him to firefighters.
Ryan said she has nightmares and feels “regretful” that she could not rescue the rest of the family.
She said she wants to tell LaShaun, “I will always be here for you, and I apologize for not doing more than I could.”
She said Armstrong’s aunt, Angela Gilliam, had called to thank her, and she told Gilliam, “Don’t thank me. I was in the right place at the right time.”
A joint funeral had been planned for the mother and children, but the children’s father, Jean Pierre, said Wednesday that he would hold a separate service for the children next week.
Armstrong’s relatives were angry with the decision.
“She gave birth to them. She was their mother,” said Armstrong’s cousin Channise White. “At the end of the day, no matter what, they are her children. They should be buried with her.”
Pierre did not attend Armstrong’s funeral. Gilliam, Armstrong’s aunt, said La’Shaun did. He did not address the congregation.