By ED RUNYAN
Two pastors of Genesis Christian Community Center of Niles who knew Kirklan Behner, 15, one of six teens killed Sunday in an auto accident on Niles-Warren River Road, described his charismatic personality during a funeral service Friday at NorthMar Church.
It was the first of the six funerals to occur each day through Tuesday. The accident was the worst loss of life for a traffic crash in Trumbull County history.
Pastor Anthony L. Davis and assistant Pastor Troy Woods both knew the boy because of his involvement in Mind, Body and Soul, the church’s outreach ministry in the Trumbull Homes apartments, where he lived.
“I understand that most of you feel that life was taken way too short. And in my own flesh, I questioned God, I said, ‘Lord, not Kirklan. It’s too soon, God. How can you do this to me?’” Pastor Davis said. “God had to remind me that his time
ain’t like our time. He also had to remind me that he doesn’t take everyone through the same
process of promotion. God said, ‘I have something better than just a high school diploma.’”
“Kirklan is not eliminated. He’s just not where you are at right now,” Pastor Davis said. “And what we’re saying is he’s absent on the other side of glory.”
Kirklan’s death is comparable to the presence and setting of the sun depending on where a person is on the earth, he continued. “What we see as being the very end to Kirklan all depends on your perspective. Some may say he is gone, but for others ... they are shouting glory in heaven. They are saying, ‘Welcome my brother, you have finally made it.’”
Pastor Davis remembers that in many situations in which he would counsel Kirklan, the boy would say, “‘Pastor, I got this.’ I used to pray for him and say, ‘Lord just help that young man.’
“But God said, ‘He was right, he’s finally got it.’ He’s got what we desire to have. And I know it doesn’t feel good right now, and you’ll go through times of loneliness, but he has now achieved great things.”
Mayor Doug Franklin knew the boy because of two cleanup projects where Franklin worked alongside him in the past few years.
“He had something that caused adults to gravitate to him,” Franklin said of meeting him. “He had a joyful spirit that was contagious. From that point on, I felt like he was a part of my family.”
At a cleanup on Youngs-town Road, “Kirklan was the first young person to show up that morning. That’s the kind of spirit I want us to remember,” the mayor said.
Both pastors commented on how Kirklan could be found all over town on his bicycle.
“We would always see him out riding that bike, all over town,” Pastor Woods said. “But for some reason, he would say, “Mr. Troy, I need a ride home.’ He would be on the other side of town, and you’d say. ‘What are you doing over there?’ And he would say, ‘Mr. Troy, I just need a ride.’”
Kirklan, who was in the ninth grade at Warren G. Harding High School, is one of nine children, all but one of whom live in Warren.
All six teens died of drowning, according to a ruling from Dr. Humphrey Germaniuk, Trumbull County coroner. The vehicle was traveling south when it hit a guardrail and flipped into a 5-foot-deep pond about 7 a.m.
Investigators have said they are still trying to determine where the seven boys and one girl had been before the accident. The accident happened close to where several of the boys lived, and two sets of parents have said the boys were heading home, perhaps trying to make it before their parents woke up.
Two of the eight occupants, an 18-year-old man and a 15-year-old boy, were able to escape from the overturned car and run to a house a quarter mile away to get help.
On the funeral program, the Behner family thanked several businesses and organizations that helped with funeral expenses. They include Baird Brothers Sawmill of Canfield, which provided a coffin; NorthMar Church for use of the church; Pineview Cemetery on Youngstown Road in Warren, which provided the burial plot; and Reuben Gordon of Anointed Publications of Youngstown, who provided the funeral program.
Warren Council President Bob Dean said Baird Brothers, Pineview Cemetery and Anointed Publications have offered to provide their donation to all six families.
A fund called “Gifts For Our Children” is set up at Huntington Bank to accept donations on behalf of the six families, Dean said. A committee of five ministers will administer the account to ensure that the money is being used appropriately, Dean said.
Large donations have come in from Believers Church, Laborers International Union on West Market Street, the Novelis Corp. on Griswold Street, and Friendship Baptist Church in Warren.