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"It Could Have Been Me:" What Michael Brown's Funeral Meant To The People Who Never Knew Him

Many people who attended the funeral had no personal connection to Brown at all. Instead, they came because they felt the case meant something to them.

Posted on August 25, 2014, at 7:18 p.m. ET

AP Photo/New York Times, Richard Perry, Pool

Thousands gathered to say good-bye to Michael Brown at his funeral Monday.

Thousands of mourners converged on a neighborhood church in St. Louis on Monday to say good-bye to Michael Brown.

The service began after 10 a.m. at Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church. The 2,500-seat building was filled to capacity, and a nearby overflow auditorium was mostly full as well. People came for different reasons, but all of them apparently had been moved by the story of Brown's death, which happened Aug. 9 when he was fatally shot by a police officer.

The service was a lively affair. A series of religious and civic leaders culminating with Al Sharpton delivered fiery sermons on everything from scripture to race to police in America. The calls for change and justice elicited applause, even in the crowded overflow section where white-gloved ushers handed out fans as the temperature rose.

Some of those who attended knew Brown, either as a friend or a family member. Others were high-profile figures, like White House aides or celebrities. But many people had no personal connection to Brown at all. Instead, they came because they felt the case meant something to them. This is what some of them told BuzzFeed:

"It could have been me, you know." —Kyle Blackmon

Jim Dalrymple II

Blackmon didn't know Brown, but said that he lives just a few minutes from where the shooting happened. Like Brown, Blackmon is a young black man, which made the shooting all the more striking. "This is something that's going to be historical, it's going to be in the history books," Blackmon added. "It's a very sad day."

"This needs to stop. It really does." —Debra Clark

Jim Dalrymple II

Clark, center, is a graduate of Normandy High — the same school from which Brown graduated earlier this year. While waiting to go into the funeral, she criticized police for being quick to draw their guns, and said problems with policing have been going on "for a long, long time. We need justice for this."

Later Monday during the funeral, Sharpton would repeatedly touch on the same topic. In addition to Brown, he cited a recent case in California in which a woman was beaten on the side of a freeway, as well as a case last month in which a New York police officer killed Eric Garner with a chokehold. "America, it's time to deal with policing," Sharpton said to enthusiastic applause.

"Michael really wasn't a troublemaker at all." —Courtney Jones Sr.

Jones said he was friends with Brown, whom he described as a quiet and humble guy. He also said those who have described Brown as a thug are wrong, and that when news of the shooting reached him he didn't even realize the Michael involved could be his friend.

Jones was whisked away by a family entourage as the funeral began before BuzzFeed was able to take his picture. The moment was one of many when the crowd swirled around the church entrance as police did crowd control in the blocked off street. In the end, many would-be attendees were turned away and told to watch at a nearby gymnasium, which served as the overflow section. Before they arrived, however, Brown's family arrived and as his mother passed members of the crowd began yelling, "We love you."

"It's hard to believe that we're still suffering with a lack of communication between races." —Patricia Jones

Jim Dalrymple II

Race has dominated the story of Brown's death, with many in his community citing long-standing racial problems.

Jones — a St. Louis native who is now a California-based psychotherapist — agreed that the case raises questions about how America deals with race. She decided to come to Brown's funeral during a trip to her hometown because she wanted answers about what happened, but she walked away empty-handed; many of the details she hoped to find are still subject to conflicting reports and may not be clear until a grand jury finishes reviewing evidence, if ever.

She added that recent events in Ferguson emphasize how people of different races should be able to communicate, but sometimes don't. "We pretty much have the same issues," she said. "We all want the same things. We all just want to raise our children, live our lives, and be successful. And for some reason we can't seem to touch each other, even though we're very similar."

"It seems as though God has sanctioned this to happen. That a change needs to desperately take place." —DeeNa Adair

Jim Dalrymple II

Adair attended the funeral with her husband, Marwin, and 10-month-old son, Zion. Like many, she was saddened by Brown's death but hoped that it could be a catalyst for change. She also cited several speeches from the funeral, saying Brown apparently knew his name would become widely known. "We don't understand what's going on but God does and he always has a plan," she said.

Marwin added that the change he hopes to see is a correction of long-standing prejudice: "We really do need to deal with this racism. It's been like an elephant in the room that everybody's been trying to avoid. It's time for us as a country to deal with it."

"I think it's time that we take a stand and fight for what we believe in." —Calvin Arnold

Jim Dalrymple II

Like others at the funeral, Arnold said he hopes some good comes of the shooting. Among other things, Arnold said racial profiling and harassment are problems that he has had to deal with. "I'm 55 and I've been living that all my life," he added.

After the funeral, the crowds dispersed peacefully while helicopters buzzed overhead. The temperature rose to more than 101 degrees and at least one person collapsed. Police and others moved through the crowd with water bottles. However, most said that the story of Brown's death was not over.

"We will be back out there on West Florissant tomorrow. We going to be out there every day until there's justice for Mike Brown." —Alphonso Scott

Jim Dalrymple II

Scott was among the many people who praised Sharpton, saying the prominent civil rights activist's fiery concluding speech "took 'em to church." Scott, who has previously participated in the protests on West Florissant in Ferguson, said after the funeral that he would respect the Brown family's request that there be no demonstrations Monday. Later this week, however, he plans to return to protesting. "That cop needs to be thrown in jail," he added when asked what "justice" he was seeking.