GREENWICH, Conn. - At an overflowing church just a few hundred feet from the high school Carolyn Bessette Kennedy attended, former neighbors and classmates of Carolyn and her sister Lauren came together yesterday to pray.
Some brought flowers, others clutched rosary beads. Their sorrow was plain as they knelt and bowed their heads for Mass.
''Two daughters, and not knowing their whereabouts. It's just terrible,'' said Debbie Lamoureux, who graduated from St. Mary High School in Carolyn's class.
The Bessettes are not world-famous like the Kennedys. But it was clear yesterday at the special Mass at St. Michael the Archangel Church that they are much loved by the people who know them.
Lamoureux said she remembers Carolyn, 33, as ''always smiling, always laughing, very lovely.'' Others in the crowd of 200 people at the standing-room-only service had personal connections to the Bessette sisters, who lived in Greenwich. Several, like Lamoureux, were schoolmates of Carolyn from St. Mary's, Class of 1983.
During the Mass, the Rev. Michael R. Moynihan reminded the congregation several times to pray for the Bessettes' relatives and Carolyn's husband, John F. Kennedy Jr.
Fifteen minutes into the service, Moynihan called all the children in the church up to the altar, where they sat cross- legged on the light-green carpet as the priest explained why yesterday was different from other Sundays.
''We're praying in a special way today for three people who were in a plane accident,'' Moynihan said.
Greg Neumann, who attended the 9:45 a.m. Mass with his wife and children, described Lauren, 34, as very dedicated, very professional.
The two worked together in Hong Kong for Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, the Manhattan-based investment banking firm where Lauren is a vice president.
Carolyn and Lauren's family chose to grieve in private yesterday. The sisters' mother and stepfather, Ann and Richard Freeman, had asked police to block everyone except residents from entering their private road in Old Greenwich. The short street, which dead ends into the Long Island Sound, is lined with maple and birch trees, white picket fences, and well-kept houses that are modestly sized for the area.
Ireland native Olive Curran wore sunglasses in the front center pew as she clutched her rosary beads.
''I'm heartbroken,'' said Curran, a friend of Jean Kennedy Smith, sister of the late president and a former ambassador to Ireland. ''I love them.''