"Please know I am OK."
That was just one line from two powerful letters written by American journalist Steven Sotloff to his family before his brutal beheading at the hands of the Islamic State terrorists. Those letters were read during a memorial service held last night.
On Friday, the Beth Am synagogue in Pinecrest, Florida was packed with the family and friends of Sotloff. The service also attracted politicians like Governor Rick Scott, former Governor Charlie Crist and Senator Marco Rubio. CNN reported that more than 900 mourners attended.
After the service Ann Bellan leaves the memorial service for slain journalist Steven Sotloff at Temple Beth Am, Friday, Sept. 5, 2014, in Pinecrest, Fla. The Islamic State has beheaded two American journalists it held captive for what the militants called payback for more than 120 U.S. airstrikes on its assets in northern Iraq since Aug. 8. (AP Photo/The Miami Herald, Charles Trainor Jr)
The Sotloff family moved quickly to schedule the memorial service in accordance to Jewish customs. The funeral was held without a body — and there is still no confirmation from the U.S. State Department that Sotloff's remains will ever be located and returned.
The Daily Mail reported that Sotloff's sister, Lauren selected Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" to be played during the service and lyric sheets were handed out to all in the temple.
The same temple where Sotloff attended classes as a youth and where his mother now teaches preschool hosted the funeral. The temple was filled with people and the service overflowing with emotion. Those inside were given a glimpse into the character of the young man who was brutally beheaded by the Islamic State terrorists earlier this week.
Two letters from Sotloff, smuggled out of the prison camp where he was held, were released by his family. These two notes, one believed to have been written shortly before his death, illustrate the strength of character and the compassionate soul of Steven Sotloff.
The full text of each letter has not yet been released by the family. However, portions from each were shared with mourners.
The NY Daily News published excerpts from the smuggled notes. Reading Sotloff's words it is hard not to notice that they attempted to send a reassuring tone by opening with, “Please know I’m okay.” And yet his words also displayed a raw honesty about his situation, adding, “I love you, miss you, pray for you and hope to see you soon... If we're not together again, perhaps God will be merciful enough to reunite us in Heaven."
Another excerpt from a Steven Sotloff letter shared some touching advice from a man who was being held prisoner, half a world away.
"Love and respect each other. Don't fight over nonsense. Hug each other every day. Eat dinner together. Live your lives to the fullest. Stay positive and patient. God rewards those who are patient.”
“Everyone has two lives, the second one begins when you realize you only have one.”
Sotloff's parents, Shirley and Arthur found it difficult to address the estimated 900 attendees. "I will try to speak from my heart but my heart is broken," said Arthur. He added, "I lost my son and my best friend."
Shirley Sotloff's grief resounded in her words of praise for the son she lost, stating, “I’m so proud of my son for living his dream.” She continued, "I may not have him physically, but I will always have him in my heart."
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