Long after the memorial ceremony for Christopher Lane ended Saturday afternoon, his former teammates lingered in a chapel at Oklahoma Christian University, sharing hugs and stories about their friend.
Lane, 22, an Australian who was attending East Central University on a baseball scholarship, died Aug. 16 after he was shot in the back while jogging in Duncan.
“We reminisce about the stories we have with Chris, and we just smile and laugh,” said Mac Grace, a teammate of Lane's at ECU. “That's all you could do around Chris.”
Three teenagers are charged in Lane's death, which sparked international outrage after one of the suspects said he and his friends killed Lane at random because they were bored.
Saturday's memorial service was short. Dozens of his former teammates from ECU and Redlands Community College sat in the front pews and wiped away tears as they watched slideshows featuring pictures of their friend smiling and making goofy faces at the camera.
Brock Werdel, a former teammate of Lane's from Redlands, officiated the ceremony, straying from his notes several times as he recalled Lane's infectious personality.
“It's kind of a miracle that in the short time he was here, he touched so many lives,” Werdel said.
Lane came to Oklahoma in 2009 on a baseball scholarship to Redlands Community College in El Reno. After finishing at Redlands, he went to ECU to finish his degree and continue playing baseball, staying in the state in part to be close to his girlfriend, Sarah Harper, a golfer at Oklahoma Christian.
Lane was visiting Harper and her parents in Duncan when he went for a jog the afternoon he was killed.
He was popular at both schools, winning friends easily as the easygoing Australian eager to make teammates laugh.
“He always used to say, ‘it's not peer pressure, it's just your turn,'” Grace said, smiling. “If he were here today, he would be so overwhelmed. He'd probably call us soft for crying about him.”
Lane's funeral will be next week in Australia. Saturday's service wasn't publicized and was held in Oklahoma City in part to allow friends from both Redlands and ECU to attend. After the ceremony ended, teammates from both schools took a group photo with a giant picture of Lane.
Some of the teammates who played with Lane at ECU had never met his friends from Redlands and vice versa. But they hugged and laughed together Saturday afternoon, laughter occasionally giving way to tears.
Lane wasn't a professional baseball prospect. He planned to work in real estate after graduating in May. But his friends said he was never happier than when he was playing baseball.
“I know he's up there playing ball, and I just hope he saves me a spot,” Grace said.