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Bearing flowers and the weight of a terrible mystery...

By MARTIN P. HOUSEMAN

SAN DIEGO -- Bearing flowers and the weight of a terrible mystery that will never be solved, the families of the McDonald's massacre victims gathered Saturday for a requiem mass and reflection on why 21 innocents perished.

Msgr. Frank Aldasoro, pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, said at a communal requiem Mass that to lose friends and family members to natural death 'is difficult enough. But to lose husbands, fathers, mothers and children in such a violent tragedy creates even more tears, causes even more suffering.'

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Among the mourners was Edna Huberty, the widow of James Huberty, who killed 21 people in Wendesday's shooting spree. Wearing a purple dress, she was sitting in the section reserved for 'dignitaries,' one pew in front of San Diego Mayor Roger Hedgecock. Mrs. Huberty sobbed during the service.

The small hilltop Roman Catholic church in San Ysidro, just six blocks from the McDonald's restaurant where Huberty, 41, went on his murderous rampage Wednesday, was packed with 800 people while there were an estimated 1,200 others outside.

Bishop Leo T. Maher, who conducted the service, told the mourners, 'We must rely on the great hope of the Almighty. Those in mourning can be powerful because he makes them powerful.'

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There were only five caskets at the church. Four contained the bodies of Margarita Padilla, 18, Victor Rivera, 25, Maria Colmenero Silva, 18, and 9-year-old Claudia Perez. The fifth contained Jackie Wright Reyes, 18, and her 8-month-old son Carlos. The other victims will be buried later.

Miss Reyes was out shopping for a cousin's wedding and had stopped for a snack with her tot, Miss Silva, and three friends Wednesday when Huberty stormed into the fast-food restaurant one mile from the U.S.-Mexico border and opened fire with a pump action shotgun, semi-automatic rifle and automatic pistol.

When the caskets were carried into the church, the mother of victim Omar Hernandez, 11, burst into tears and moaned: 'Oh, my God, my son, my son.'

The coffins were in a semi-circle around the flower-bedecked altar.

Priests from throughout San Diego County attended the Mass along with government officials and Joan Kroc, widow of McDonald's founder Ray Kroc.

The restaurant where the massacre took place was the scene of a protest following the funeral. Seven people demanded that it be torn down and replaced by a memorial park. Police said there were no incidents.

Twenty-one people were killed in the worst single-day mass murder by a gunman in U.S. history. Huberty was killed by a police sharpshooter 67 minutes after the massacre began.

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The coroner's office has received phone calls from several physicians expressing interest in Huberty's brain, which is being preserved in a freezer, in hopes of determining if any physical abnormality might have set him off. Coroner David Stark said he would consult with Mrs. Huberty before making any decision.

Stark said an autopsy showed no signs of alcohol, drugs or a brain abnormality and police investigators said Huberty's motives will never be known.

Mrs. Huberty and her daughters sat late Friday in a San Diego funeral parlor visitation room near the coffin containing Huberty's body. The mortuary said the family planned no services and Huberty's body will be cremated early next week.

Flowers and donations were pouring in for Huberty's victims from throughout the United States.

'Everybody identifies with it in some way,' Police Chief Bill Kolender said.

A special counseling hot line has been opened for residents of San Ysidro and its cross-border counterpart, Tijuana, Mexico.

Mrs. Kroc said franchises of the worldwide fast-food chain were donating $1 million to the San Ysidro Family Survivors' Fund to help with burial costs and counseling.

Local businesses offered contributions, children trickled into San Diego-area McDonald's restaurants offering nickles and dimes and other customers gave donations of up to several hundred dollars.

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Michael Mantell, a police psychiatrist who counseled several survivors of the rampage, said they and the community 'will be emotionally scarred for years but, by and large, the community will bounce back.'

He said many survivors were showing a 'startle reaction' -- with symptoms of sleep loss and guilt.

And even the policemen who viewed the death scene were affected.

'Some officers are very distraught,' Kolender said. 'Some cried. Some went home and hugged their kids. These are young men in their 20s who haven't seen anyone die before. Our psychologists will help them and they will help the victims, too.'

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