The funeral for Justin Zemser, the 20-year-old U.S. Naval Academy midshipman killed earlier this week in the Amtrak crash in Philadelphia, took place Friday morning at the Boulevard-Riverside-Hewlett Chapel in Hewlett, Long Island.
Zemser, a sophomore who was born and raised in Far Rockaway, Queens, was headed home on leave from the academy in Annapolis, Maryland, when the Manhattan-bound Northeast Regional derailed while going 106 mph on a curved section of track -- killing eight and injuring dozens. His funeral was the first for those killed in the derailment.
Zemser was the high school valedictorian at the Channel View School for Research, where he also was student body president and captain of the football team. He played football for Navy -- and wanted to become a Navy SEAL.
"I am on the train," Zemser wrote after boarding in Washington, D.C. "Everything is good." After reading the message, Susan Zemser began cooking her only child's favorite dinner: pasta with chicken.
"It was waiting for him," his mother said earlier this week.
But her son never made it home.
"The school is devastated," Patricia Tubridy, 62, retired principal of Channel View School for Research, said this week. "You're talking about an exceptional young man. He was loved by everybody -- students and staff."
Zemser left an impression on Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). Like hundreds of other smart, determined students, Zemser came to Schumer's office in 2012 and asked him to support his Naval Academy application.
"With all those applicants, he still stood out," Schumer said. "I deeply mourn his loss for his family, but also for our country because he would have done so much for us."