Nicolette Robinson, a King College Preparatory High School student took careful steps across the snow- covered ground as she made her way from the parking lot area to the Greater Harvest Baptist Church Saturday morning to line up amongst the hundreds who gathered to say their final goodbyes to Hadiya Pendleton, who lost her life to Chicago’s gun violence as she took shelter from the rain on Jan. 29 near her school.
“The violence needs to stop,” said Robinson in a low, somber voice; revealing the sadness she felt for her friend and classmate who now is unable to continue her life.
In response to an online petition and public outcry for President Barack Obama to attend Pendleton’s funeral, First Lady Michelle Obama, Senior White House Aide Valerie Jarrett and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan attended in his place to pay their respect and as a symbolic gesture against gun violence.
As expected at the high profile funeral with the First Lady in attendance, security was tight with bomb sniffing dogs and searches of everyone who entered the church at 5141 S. State St.
The First Lady, according to those inside, told Pendleton’s friends and classmates to “stay strong” and look forward to their bright futures.
Stacey Mixon Newton who attended Western Illinois University with Hadiya’s parents attended the funeral Saturday morning to pay her respects to Pendleton and her family.
“My daughter went to school with Hadiya,” said Mixon Newton. “I just think we as parents really need to step our game up and be more involved with our police and schools and whatever we can do to make the situation better.”
People started lining up at the church well before the 9 a.m. which is when visitation for the teen began. The funeral followed at 11 a.m.
Chatham resident Jared Washington was Hadiya’s middle school principal at the University of Chicago Charter School.
“I think this crime “we’re experiencing” is emblematic of a catastrophic breakdown of our community,” Washington said of the neighborhood gun violence that captured national news attention.
Washington said students are being told by him and their parents to go straight home after school.
Mary Murphy, a resident of Hyde Park stood amongst the many reporters and photographers gathered in a space across the street from the church holding a glass vase filled with white roses as tears streamed down her face on the cold Saturday morning of Pendleton’s funeral.
“I’m going to place the flowers at her memorial and I’m grateful to Michelle Obama for showing up to shed light on what we can do to control gun violence.”
Auburn Gresham resident Bobbie Mccomb also stood across the street behind metal barricades erected to keep the press at bay. Her 14-year-old daughter Cierra Mccomb, she said, was shot Dec.1 as she stood outside on 78th and Carpenter Streets with friends. Fortunately, Cierra survived the shooting.
“Someone came up and just started shooting,” said the mother, Mccomb. “She was shot in the back of the knee and the bullet is a couple inches from an artery so it’s still in there.”
Mccomb said she has other teens in her home and worries about them every day.
“No one believes it but our kids our becoming extinct,” said Mccomb. “This is getting ridiculous and something needs to be done.”
Mccomb said she just moved from Chatham to the Auburn Gresham community in Sept. and is now considering leaving the city altogether for the sake of her children.
Chicago Police Tuesday evening confirmed that two individuals have been charged with Pendleton’s murder.
Kenneth Williams, 20, of the 3900 block of S. Lake Park Ave. and Michael Ward, 18, of the 300 block of W. 59th St. were charged with first degree murder, two counts each attempted first degree murder and two counts each aggravated battery/discharge of a firearm in connection with the fatal shooting.
By Deborah Bayliss