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'Too young to leave us': Hundreds mourn slain Chicago teen at funeral

The first lady joined hundreds of mourners on Saturday at the funeral of Hadiya Pendleton, 15, who was killed at a park near her Chicago high school. NBC's Kristen Welker reports.

CHICAGO -- Hadiya Pendleton was remembered by many Saturday as a smiling young girl full of laughter and love.


First lady Michelle Obama and hundreds of supporters attended a funeral for the slain teen Saturday morning at the Greater Harvest Baptist Church.

The service began shortly after 11 a.m. to a packed room.

"Hadiya was too young to leave us but not too young to make a mark," Pendleton's pastor Courtney Maxwell said at the start of the service.


The service was filled with uplifting testimonials and a few words on gun violence in the area.

One of Pendleton's close friends happily remembered their last moment together.

"Her smile lit up a room," she said. "The last thing I saw before they put her in that ambulance was her smiling and from heaven above I know that each day she's smiling down on all of us."

Hadiya's mother, Cleopatra Pendleton, thanked everyone for the kind words that were spoken about her daughter.

"I can stand up here and say my baby girl was good," she said. "But for all you to say she's good ... that's something different."

Cleopatra Pendleton also thanked her family for the support she received since her daughter passed.

"You don't  know how hard this really is," she said. "And for those of you that do know, I'm sorry. I'm sorry."

Though the family strived to keep the focus on Pendleton the  first lady's visit drew attention, and lots of security, to the funeral and shed light on the ongoing issue of gun violence.

Pendleton's godfather Damon Stewart, wearing purple accents to honor her with her favorite color, said he thinks her passing will help raise awareness for those who have lost their lives to violence.

"She is a representative to not only the people of Chicago but to the people of this nation who have lost their lives," he said.

One of her friends said he was being realistic about the tragedy because Pendleton "always kept it real."

"This is life," he said. "This is Chicago."

A letter from President Barack Obama offering his condolences to her parents, Nathaniel and Cleopatra Pendleton, was printed on the back of the program.

"We will continue to work as hard as we can to end this senseless violence," the letter read.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Rev. Jesse Jackson were also in attendance.

Pendleton was killed last Tuesday at Kenwood Park on the city's South Side days after she performed at some of President Barack Obama's recent inauguration festivities. She was shot to death blocks from her school and about a mile from the president's and first lady's Chicago home.

Hundreds flocked to pay their respects to the 15-year-old girl and emotions were high.

The church quickly filled to maximum capacity before the service began and many people were turned away, though a large group remains gathered outside.

Some of Pendleton's classmates were emotional when they couldn't get in and cried outside the church.

One man was arrested after a fight broke out among the line of mourners stretching down South State Street.

Nam Y. Huh / AP

Danyia Bell, left 16, and Artureana Terrell , 16, react as they read a program for the funeral of Hadiya Pendleton outside the Greater Harvest Missionary Baptist Church on Saturday.

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