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Michelle Obama attends Hadiya Pendleton funeral

Sunday, February 10, 2013
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First lady Michelle Obama was among the hundreds of mourners who attended 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton's funeral in Chicago Saturday.

Chicago joined a mother as she said a final goodbye to her daughter Hadiya Pendleton. It was a tragic moment, a final farewell that no one was ready for.

The tributes lasted for more than three hours and there wasn't one empty seat at Greater Harvest Baptist Church.

"No mother or father should have to experience this," Hadiya Pendleton's mother Cleo Pendleton said. "You don't know how hard this really is. And those of you that do know how hard this is, I'm sorry."

The Greater Harvest Baptist Church was filled by those touched by the tragic death.

Hadiya Pendleton was remembered as energetic, genuine and real.

She was a gift from God, the family's pastor Courtney Maxwell said.

"I loved that child. Nobody knows how much I loved that child," her godfather Damon Stewart said.

The emotions of the moment were overwhelming.

A heart-shaped balloon was placed near her silver casket which was surrounded by her favorite color purple.

Among those offering words were some of Pendleton's friends who were with her when she was shot.

"On that day, the last thing I saw before they put her in the ambulance was her smiling. And from heaven above, I know that each day she's smiling down on all of us," friend Kaylen Jones said.

Hadiya Pendleton's fellow bandmates presented her majorette jacket to her mother.

Friend after friend spoke of the future they had always thought they'd share together.

Some shared heart felt verses about losing their friend who they called their beloved angel. They also used their voices to speak to her killer.

First Lady Michelle Obama offers comfort, support to Pendleton family

While the service celebrated the teen's "homecoming", the attendance of First Lady Michelle Obama shifted the attention to anti-gun efforts nationwide.

Obama comforted Cleo Pendleton as she gazed upon her daughter a final time before the casket was closed.

She also met privately with about 30 of Hadiya's friends and classmates and then with family members.

Along with Mrs. Obama, White House senior aide Valerie Jarrett and Sec. of Education Arne Duncan also attended the service.

A significant police and Secret Service presence was visible ahead of the funeral. Attendees waited in a security line, passed through a tent and were searched before entering the church.

None of the political figures in attendance spoke at the service. They left the calls for soul-searching to others.

Another chapter in the national gun violence debate

After the funeral, Hadiya Pendleton was laid to rest at Cedar Park Cemetery in Riverdale. Her parents are scheduled to be in Washington on Tuesday to attend a Senate hearing on gun violence.

No one has been arrested in connection with Pendleton's death on January 29. She was shot while taking shelter from the rain in a park that police say is gang territory. Pendleton was not the intended target.

"As we stand here today, we wait, as we investigate the Hadiya Pendleton murder. The city waits, the nation waits, and the family waits for healing," Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said Friday.

Pendleton's family has received outpouring of support. The service drew many who never knew the 15-year-old girl.

"The death of this beautiful young lady has such a major impact on me personally," Joanne Norwood said. "It felt like she was one of my children."

Hundreds of people already paid their respects at the gun violence victim Friday at a wake. That group included Pendleton's fellow performers, who sang the same song they belted out in Washington at President Barack Obama's inauguration a few weeks ago.

The experience has been overwhelming for Pendleton's family.

"This is not political. It's personal, and it should be personal to every father, to every mother, and to anybody who's ever lost anybody. This should be personal," godfather Damon Stewart said.

Pendleton's death put Chicago in the middle of a national debate on gun violence. Several members of Congress were expected to bring relatives of gun violence victim's to President Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday. Cleo Pendleton, Hadiya's mother, is expected to be there.

"I believe that we will all be judged by future generations for what we do right now," activist and priest Father Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina Church said.

"There's no way that you can tell me that we can put a man on the moon, but we can't come together to figure this situation out," Stewart said.

(Copyright ©2014 WLS-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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