- The Washington Times - Monday, April 23, 2007

Thousands of mourners converged on a small church in McLean yesterday to remember Reema J. Samaha, who died April 16 at Virginia Tech.

More than 1,500 relatives and friends filled the Holy Transfiguration Melkite Greek-Catholic Church for the open-casket service, which was a solemn and poignant celebration of her life, family members said.

Miss Samaha — a thin, dark-haired 18-year-old with a vibrant smile — was remembered for her love of dance and theater.

“This was the finale, the show she would have been in as a performer,” said her father, Joseph Samaha. “She was a girl without boundaries who wanted to do many things in life.”

Miss Samaha had recently chosen to major in urban planning and minor in French and international studies.

“She wanted to learn language and probably try to solve problems of the world,” Mr. Samaha said.

Tom Fadoul, Mr. Samaha’s cousin, said the large turnout was a sign of Miss Samaha’s character.

“The masses of people who came were a big symbol of exactly what she lived for, which was the demonstration of the importance of love and sharing and being together,” Mr. Fadoul said.

She was a member of student dance groups at Virginia Tech and at Westfield High School, where she graduated last year. She was also on the drama team in high school, playing Aunt Martha in a production of “Arsenic and Old Lace” last year.

Her joy was contagious, her father said.

“She was humble in her accomplishments, and like a carpenter, she was good at drilling a hole through peoples’ hearts, so gently and so lightly, and she would infect them with her love,” Mr. Samaha said.

The funeral crowded the quiet residential neighborhood of manicured lawns and modest houses, as side streets quickly filled with cars. Police directed traffic as three shuttle buses traveled back and forth from a nearby parking lot.

After the service, a 172-vehicle funeral procession, led by 22 state police officers on motorcycles, drove slowly to the National Memorial Park cemetery in Falls Church.

Residents who didn’t know Miss Samaha came out of their houses to watch.

A woman sat quietly with three young children and a dog on her lawn as the cars filed past, reaching beneath her glasses to wipe away tears.

Across the street, a man stopped his car and stood beside it, hands folded respectfully, until the motorcade had passed.

Funeral services were also held yesterday for Daniel Perez Cueva, 21, of Woodbridge, Va.

Erin Peterson, 18, international studies major from Centreville, will be laid to rest today.

Her funeral service will be at Mount Olive Baptist Church in Centreville, followed by a burial in Rock Hill Cemetery in Loudoun County.

She and Miss Samaha, who graduated in the same class at Westfield High, had grown up together and played soccer as children.

The two teenagers lived on the same dorm floor at Virginia Tech and were in the same French class, where they were when the shooting occurred.

A memorial service will be held today for Brian Bluhm, 25, a graduate student majoring in civil engineering in Winchester, Va.

On Sunday, more than 6,000 people came to the visitation for Miss Samaha to pay their respects to her family, Mr. Fadoul said. The line of people wrapped around the church three times, he said.

n n n

Ryan Clark was celebrated in Georgia yesterday as an example of how to live and love, in joyful song and tearful tributes from his friends, family and classmates.

The Martinez, Ga., native was about a month shy of his 23rd birthday and just a few weeks short of his graduation from Virginia Tech when he was fatally shot in the Ambler Johnston residence hall.

During his five years as a Hokie, Mr. Clark played the baritone horn in the marching band, served as a residence hall assistant and earned degrees in psychology, biology and English. He and the other victims will receive their degrees posthumously on May 11.

The Marching Virginians saluted Mr. Clark on Saturday, and several band members attended yesterday’s funeral.

Kimberly Daniloski, also a member of the baritone section, told the mourners, “I loved him. … I was better when I was with him, and I am better because I knew him.”

n This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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