RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. Hundreds of mourners, including first lady Michelle Obama, turned out for the funeral of a 15-year-old Chicago girl. Hadiya Pendleton was shot to death days after she and her high school band performed at inaugural events in Washington last month. As NPR's Cheryl Corley reports, Pendleton's killing has made her part of the nation's debate over gun violence.
CHERYL CORLEY, BYLINE: First lady Michelle Obama did not speak during Hadiya Pendleton's funeral. Instead, before the services, she met privately with the family and with the teenager's classmates and friends. Later, Mrs. Obama stood at the still open casket and comforted the teenager's mother; rubbing Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton's back as she looked down at her daughter and wept. When Cowley-Pendleton spoke, she said she tried to keep her daughter busy so she'd be beyond the reach of the city's gang violence:
CLEOPATRA COWLEY-PENDLETON: You don't know how hard this really is, and those of you who do know how hard this is, I'm sorry. I'm sorry. No mother, no father should ever have to experience this.
CORLEY: Friends and family lined up during the nearly three-hour funeral at Greater Harvest Baptist Church to talk about the girl with the ready smile, the sister who protected her baby brother, and the honor student and majorette who wowed her classmates and teachers with her infectious spirit. Kaylen Jones and many of the other teenagers who spoke about Pendleton identified themselves as her best friend.
KAYLEN JONES: I love her. And, yes, for these few weeks, I've been feeling like there's a part of me missing, but I've since realized she's right here with us. She never left; she's right here with all of us whispering the answers to us in chemistry.
(SOUNDBITE OF HYMN)
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