Chicago • Hundreds of mourners and dignitaries including first lady Michelle Obama packed the funeral service Saturday for a Chicago teen whose killing catapulted her into the nation’s debate over gun violence.
Yet, one speaker after another remembered 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton not so much as a symbol but as a best friend, an excellent student with big dreams and simply a girl with a great smile and bubbly personality. They said she was a typical teen who wanted to borrow her friends’ clothes and who never left home without her lip gloss.
And to her mother, Pendleton was the daughter she tried to keep busy so she’d be beyond the reach of the city’s seemingly endless gang violence.
“You don’t know how hard this really is, and those of you who do know how hard this really is, I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” Cleopatra Pendleton told the packed South Side church. “No mother, no father should ever have to experience this.”
Hadiya Pendleton was shot and killed Jan. 29 as she stood with friends at a neighborhood park about a mile from President Barack Obama’s Chicago home in the Kenwood neighborhood. Just days before, the band majorette was among the performers during events for Obama’s inauguration. Police say Pendleton was an innocent victim in a gang-related shooting.
Michelle Obama was among a long list of dignitaries who attended the funeral. She met privately with the family before the service and then accompanied the girl’s mother to the open casket at the front of the church. Obama, who grew up on Chicago’s South Side, put her arm around Cleopatra Pendleton and patted her back. The woman threw her head back and wailed as the lid of her daughter’s flower-strewn casket was closed.