(CHICAGO) — First lady Michelle Obama and some of Chicago’s most well-known faces turned out on Saturday 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 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton’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.”
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