Hadiya Pendleton Funeral Attended by First Lady

ABC News Blogs
Hadiya Pendleton Funeral Attended by First Lady
.

View photo

Hadiya Pendleton Funeral Attended by First Lady (ABC News)

First lady Michelle Obama and some of Chicago's most well-known faces turned out today to attend the funeral of Hadiya Pendleton, a 15-year-old girl whose killing has become another symbol in the national debate on gun violence.

Hundreds filled the Greater Deliverance Temple Church of Christ to pay their respects to the teenager's family, but the mood in the room was upbeat, including renditions from the choir. Friends of the girl, who had been one of the performers at President Obama second inauguration just days before she was gunned down, read poems in remembrance.

Before the service, the first lady met privately with about 30 of Hadiya Pendleton's friends and classmates, and then met privately with members of Hadiya's family.

"As a mother and Chicagoan, the first lady was heartbroken to learn of the tragic loss of Hadiya Pendleton due to senseless gun violence," said Kristina Schake, an aide to Obama. "Too many times we've seen young people struck down with so much of their lives ahead of them. The first lady is traveling to her funeral on Saturday to offer her condolences and support to Hadiya's family and loved ones."

Pendleton's shooting came in January among a string of recent high profile gun crimes. Chicago is also struggling through the throes of the worst homicide rates it's seen in a decade, spurred by gang warfare.

"She was not too young to leave a mark, and impact her friends, her family, and even now the nation," the Rev. Courtney Maxwell said of the student who had reportedly once participated in an anti-gang video.

In Pastor Eric Thomas' invocation he thanked "the life of this beloved angel."

"Her life has not been in vain," he said. "Because of this day there will be many other lives saved."

Police say Hadiya Pendleton was killed when a gunman opened fire on a group of young people in a park blocks from her school on the city's South Side, and about a mile from the Obamas' own neighborhood. The drum majorette had returned to Chicago days earlier from Washington, D.C., where she had participated as a performer in the festivities surrounding President Obama's second inauguration. Her classmates from the King College Prep School band were in attendance today.

There have been no arrests, although police believe the death was the result of mistaken identity from gang members who had claimed the area as their territory. Pendleton would have been an innocent bystander, they say.

The Chicago police department reported 506 homicides in 2012, although this recent tragedy has prompted local authorities to move an additional 200 officers on to street patrols.

Friends in the church described a girl who gave "the most sincere hug," but the air the room was also thick with discussion of how Pendleton's death had gathered national attention.

Pendleton's godfather said he wished lawmakers would stop "playing politics" with the renewed attention to gun violence, and think of it more "personally."

"There's no way we can put a man on the moon, but they can't figure this out," Damon Stewart said to the parishioners.

"When did we lose our soul?" asked the Rev. Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina Catholic Church in Chicago, commenting on "our failure as a society that has allowed guns to become part of our wardrobe."

"We must become like Jesus," he said.

The first lady was joined by Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett. Each claims the city as their hometown, although none spoke during the morning service. The Rev. Jesse Jackson was also seen.

Pendleton's mother, Cleopatra Cowley, is expected to be a guest of honor during President Obama's State of the Union address this Tuesday, where the national debate on gun violence is expected to be mentioned. Representative Brad Schneider has invited Cowley for the event.

At the funeral today, Ms. Cowley came to the podium in good spirits over the show of support.

"Some people around here think you're supposed to walk around with your head down low," she said of the loss of her daughter. "I'm not worried about her, I know where she is."

Although after becoming solemn, the mother admitted it was her family that ultimately kept her going.

"You don't how hard this really is," she said to the pews. "And those of you that do know how hard this is, I am sorry."

The State of the Union remarks will follow a set of executive actions already taken by the White House strengthening gun control measures and proposals from Obama that would include bans on high-capacity magazines and assault-style weapons if enacted.

The Associated Press contributed to this report, which has been updated.

View Comments (30)

Recommended for You

  • Hillary Clinton Slams Donald Trump for Calling Women 'Pigs, Slobs and Dogs'

    As the first presidential debate was drawing to a close, Hillary Clinton took one last chance to hammer Donald Trump, hitting at his remarks on women.“This is a man who has called women pigs, slobs and dogs,” Clinton said fervently from the debate stage tonight. “And someone who has said pregnancy…

    Good Morning America43 mins ago
  • Presidential Debate: Trump Held Back on Bill Clinton's 'Transgressions' Because Chelsea Was 'In the Room'

    Donald Trump suggested that he held back on discussing former President Bill Clinton's "transgressions" during the first debate of the general election because his daughter, Chelsea, was "in the room."Speaking to ABC News' Tom Llamas in the debate spin room, Trump said he thought he did "great"…

    Good Morning America
  • Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton Spar Over Taxes in First Presidential Debate

    When Hillary Clinton attacked Donald Trump for not releasing his tax returns and allegedly paying zero in federal income taxes, the Republican presidential nominee had just four words to say in response. “That makes me smart,” Trump said from the debate stage at Hofstra University tonight.

    Good Morning America
  • 10 Moments That Mattered From Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump's First Debate

    Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump ushered the 2016 presidential campaign into a new phase tonight, and they did it with plenty of barbs. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have lobbed insults at each other from far away for months, but tonight they tried to start their highly anticipated face off on…

    Good Morning America
  • Debate Fact-Check: How Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton Stack Up

    How often did Trump and Clinton spin facts to fit their arguments? Fact-check #1: Trump claims he did not say global warming is hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. Donald thinks that climate change is a hoax, perpetrated by the Chinese.

    Good Morning America
  • Presidential Debate: How Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton Plan to Deal With Race

    Race relations have been increasingly strained in the United States in recent months in the wake of a string of police-involved shootings and killing of several police officers and they took center stage at the first presidential debate. Clinton said that race remains "a significant challenge" in…

    Good Morning America
  • Most Memorable Lines of the First Presidential Debate

    Clinton and Trump engaged in 90 minutes of nonstop debating, moderated by "NBC Nightly News" anchor Lester Holt, to make their case to American voters, explaining why they thought they should occupy the White House. "Now, in all fairness to Secretary Clinton, yes, is that OK? It's very important…

    Good Morning America
  • 'DWTS' Season 23: Six Couples in Jeopardy After Face-Off Night in Week 3

    In the first ever “Face-Off” night on “Dancing With the Stars,” competitors performed in groups of two against each other, doing the same dance style to different songs.The celebrity who won each matchup won immunity from elimination, leaving six couples in jeopardy going into tomorrow’s two-hour…

    Good Morning America
  • Marlins Pay Tribute to Jose Fernandez by Wearing No. 16 Jersey

    The Miami Marlins today paid tribute to star pitcher Jose Fernandez, who died in a boating accident early Sunday, by wearing No. 16 jerseys in the first game since his death, ESPN reported. A moment of silence was held at Marlins Park, where the Miami players on the field stood surrounding the…

    Good Morning America
  • 9 Wounded After Shooting at Houston Shopping Center

    A gunman who wounded nine people near a shopping center in Houston this morning was dressed in a "military-style" uniform and had Nazi emblems, police said. Police shot and killed the gunman and he was pronounced dead on scene, according to the Houston Police Department. More than 75 shell…

    Good Morning America
  • 'Will & Grace' Cast Reunites for Hillary Clinton

    Eric McCormack, Debra Messing, Megan Mullally and Sean Hayes appeared in a new video in which they discuss the 2016 campaign as their fictional characters. McCormack's Will Truman and Messing's Grace Adler are supporters of Clinton, though Karen Walker, played by Mullally, is firmly in the Trump…

    Good Morning America
  • William and Kate Take Canada by Storm

    Driving rain and wind couldn't dampen William and Kate's enthusiasm while touring Bella Bella, British Columbia, today. The royal couple had to modify their plans and scrap an aerial float plane tour of the Great Bear rain forest because of torrential rains but received a traditional welcome by…

    Good Morning America
  • To Fact-Check or Not: Campaigns Disagree on the Role of Debate Moderator

    The diverging views came after Fox News' Chris Wallace, who is moderating the third and final presidential debate, said it is not his job to judge the accuracy of the candidates' statements in real time. It's up to the other person to catch them on that," Wallace told Fox News earlier this month. …

    Good Morning America
  • Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber Split

    Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber are ending their relationship. It is with great love, respect, and friendship in our hearts that we look forward to raising our children together and exploring this new phase of our relationship," they said. Watts, 47, and Schreiber, 48, first connected at the 2005…

    Good Morning America
  • 12-Year-Old Transgender Student Delivers Powerful Speech to School Board to Fight Transphobic Rhetoric

    A 12-year-old transgender boy from Pennsylvania recently received a standing ovation and an "overwhelming amount of support" after delivering a powerful speech to his school board in an effort to counter what he saw as hateful and ignorant rhetoric about trans students, according to his mother. …

    Good Morning America
  • Who Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump Invited to the First Presidential Debate

    While the biggest attraction during the presidential debate tonight will be the two candidates on stage, at least some attention will likely be paid to those in the audience. Hillary Clinton's campaign this morning released a partial list of guests invited by the Democratic presidential nominee to…

    Good Morning America
  • Beef, Veal, Bison Products Voluntarily Recalled After E. Coli Outbreak

    A voluntary recall of beef, veal and bison products has been issued by the Adams Farm Slaughterhouse over concerns the products might contain E. coli bacteria, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's food Safety and inspection service. At least seven people in four states have been…

    Good Morning America