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Friends, family recall College Pt. electrocution victim

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The 19-year-old Whitestone native was mourned as more than 500 mourners packed Parkside Memorial Chapel on Queens Boulevard in Forest Hills to share their grief over her untimely death. Berenson and her boyfriend, Joe Cheetham of Pittsburgh, were killed last Thursday when their car stalled in a College Point intersection rapidly filling with water during a massive rainstorm.According to witnesses, Berenson got out of the car without realizing a live wire was touching the puddle and was electrocuted. Cheetham tried to help her and was electrocuted as well."There is no manual to help you deal with losing a child," said her father, Bruce Berenson, at the standing-room only funeral. "She will always be the little girl I would tuck in every night and say 'I love you' to," he said, choked with tears."Alana was more than my best friend. She was my appendage, my emotional Siamese twin," her mother, Lee Berenson, said. "My heart is emptier without her."The color guard from SUNY-Maritime, where Berenson and Cheetham were students, stood at attention in front of her simple poplar coffin. Many classmates from SUNY-Maritime came in their white dress uniforms, and wept quietly as the school chaplain said they would "remember her with great love."The emotional service reached a pitch when Max, Berenson's 10-year-old brother, stood on his toes to say into the microphone, "I think we'll all miss Alana."During the service, Rabbi Axelman spoke of the constant presence of water in Berenson's life. "Was it not fitting that the pure soul of Alana that her life, in passing, was tied to water?" he said, noting that her Hebrew name means Pearl. "Tragically her death was tied to water as well."He likened Berenson to Noah's dove sent forth from the ark to see if the floodwaters had subsided. "This delicate creature could not find a resting place on earth," Axelman said. "She immediately went back to where she was sent from."Mourners said Berenson's fierce intelligence, love of water and innate curiousity led her to SUNY-Maritime, where she hoped to launch her life sailing the seas. Berenson was the oldest child in a closely knit family. She had attended John Bowne High School in Flushing and met the 23-year-old Cheetham at SUNY-Maritime. He was staying with the Berensons while studying for Coast Guard exams after graduation."Joe and Alana balanced each other well," Lee Berenson said. "Now they will always be together."Her family was eager to speak of Berenson before the service, recalling favorite memories. "She was just such a fun person to be around," said Fabio Perla, her 11-year-old cousin. "I'm just going to miss everything about her.""Last Passover I was sick," said 15-year-old Kayla, Berenson's youngest sister. "She sat with me through Seder. She watched TV with me for nine hours straight.""Our family still has the chance to laugh and smile," said Jenna, Berenson's 16-year-old sister. "We have a lot of good memories." She said that Berenson used to make up games to play. "They were the dumbest games, but they were so much fun. We used to play with wet sand, make lots of pies and meatballs." Both Kayla and Jenna attend Robert F. Kennedy High School in Flushing."Maybe they'll finally do something in College Point. They said the intersection in two minutes flooded," Jenna said."You can't change what happened. We can only help change what can happen in the future and prevent this from happening again," Jenna said."We wouldn't want anybody to feel the way we feel.," Berenson was buried at New Montefiore Cemetery on Long Island after the service and Cheetham was to have been buried Wednesday in Pittsburgh. She is survived by her parents, Lee and Bruce Berenson, her sisters Jenna and Kayla, and her brother Max.Reach reporter Sophia Chang by e-mail at news@timesledger.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

Posted 7:20 pm, October 10, 2011
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