Michelle Obama To Attend Hadiya Pendleton’s Funeral

Hadiya Pendleton (Supplied to CBS)

Hadiya Pendleton (Supplied to CBS)

Updated 02/07/13 – 4:51 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — Michelle Obama is planning to attend the funeral of a teenager who was shot and killed about a week after she had performed at the president’s inauguration.

The first lady will attend the service for Hadiya Pendleton on Saturday. Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to the president, and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will also attend.

They will say goodbye to a young girl they didn’t know, but whose tragic death has become known to the world.

CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli reports Hadiya has become a national symbol in the gun control debate.

Ribbons lined the streets in front of the Pendleton family home on Thursday. In less than two days, her family will leave that house to say goodbye to a girl who in life was theirs alone, but in death has become a child to many.

Haidya, who performed with the King College Prep High School marching band in Washington last month, was shot while she and a group of schoolmates were taking shelter from the rain in a small park on the 4400 block of South Oakenwald Avenue last week in the Kenwood neighborhood. Two boys also were wounded in the shooting.

Police believe a gang member opened fire on the group, mistakenly believing he was targeting a rival gang member. Pendleton was an athlete and honor student who had no gang ties; neither did any of the other students with Hadiya at the time.

Just days before, Hadiya performed with her high school band at President Barack Obama’s inauguration festivities.

Her murder, which happened about a mile from the Obamas’ Chicago home, has made national headlines and brought renewed focus on the problem of escalating gun violence in Chicago.

A cloth banner with Hadiya’s picture and the message “Hadiya Pendleton Forever In Our Hearts” will greet mourners at one of the largest visitations Calahan Funeral Home has ever seen.

Owner Edward Calahan said Hadiya’s murder “has impacted people across this country.”

The funeral home will host visitation for Hadiya on the day before the funeral at a church a few miles away.

Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. spoke at an assembly at Hadiya’s school on Thursday, and said the first lady’s presence at Hadiya’s funeral will send a message “that she knows, and that she cares, and her children once walked these same streets.”

Jackson said Hadiya’s death has touched people in a transcendent way, because “she went to the White House to see the president, now people in the White House are coming to see her.”

Secret Service Agents were at Greater Harvest Missionary Baptist Church on Thursday, preparing for the first lady’s visit to the 1,200-seat sanctuary for the funeral.

Bamani Obadele, a preacher at the church, said it’s a special thing for one mother to reach out to another like the first lady will do on Saturday, “and the fact that she’s in the highest office of this nation, it speaks volumes.”

WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports Chicago activist Aisha Truss-Miller – who started a petition on the White House website after Hadiya’s murder, asking that the president come to the funeral – said she was ecstatic to hear the first lady would be attending, but she said the symbolic gesture doesn’t carry the same weight as President Obama attending himself, and addressing the epidemic of youth violence.

Still, she said the first lady’s decision to attend adds real weight to the issue.

“The Obama family has roots in the political organizing community of Chicago, so it’s only – in my opinion – reciprocity that you show that sympathy, and that empathy, and that love to the community that helped support you, and got you to the White House.”

She said Michelle Obama’s attendance at the funeral shows the White House cares about what’s going on in Chicago, but she still wants the president to attend himself.

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