CHICAGO (CBS) — A year ago Wednesday, the murder of one teenage girl stunned the city and inspired renewed efforts to stop gun violence.
Hadiya Pendleton was the innocent victim of gang warfare. President Obama mentioned her in his State of the Union address.
CBS 2’s Jim Williams talked to Hadiya’s parents, who despite their grief have been very busy in the past year. January 29th is an anniversary Cleo and Nate Pendleton dread.
Cleo Pendleton, Hadiya’s mother, called it “the darkest day of our lives.”
“I don’t look forward to the 29th at all,” said Hadiya’s father, Nate Pendleton.
“I’m afraid of the 29th because I remember what it felt like last year,” Cleo said.
One year ago Wednesday, their daughter Hadiya was shot to death near her high school. The 15-year-old honor student was the victim of alleged gang members who fired into a crowd.
“We grieve always. Talking to you, we’re grieving. Talking about our baby is sad because it’s in the past tense,” said Cleo Pendleton.
The Pendletons will mark the anniversary at an after-school assembly with Hadiya’s classmates at King College Prep High School, which has been decked out in purple – Hadiya’s favorite color.
Hadiya’s murder, near President Obama’s home a week after she performed at his inauguration, galvanized the city. The Pendletons led efforts against gun violence. Now the city just announced a 40 percent drop in youth violence last year compared to 2012.
Overall murders also have dropped since Hadiya’s death. Since she was killed on Jan. 29, 2013, there have been 409 homicides in Chicago. During the same period a year earlier (Jan. 29, 2012, through Jan. 28, 2013) there were 527 homicides. So in the year since Hadiya’s death, Chicago’s homicides have dropped 22 percent.
The Pendletons said, a year after their daughter’s murder, they’re still struggling to find a proper way to give meaning to Hadiya’s death. They immersed themselves into the battle for new gun control laws, only to see them fail in Congress.
They said they’re still working to put together a foundation aimed at helping protect children from violence.
“It would be wonderful if the death of Hadiya had a ripple effect on consciousness being raised in young people, and for them to make a different choice on how to handle situations,” said Cleo Pendleton.
This last difficult year has taught the Pendletons how to console grieving parents.
“There’s no right thing to say,” said Cleo Pendleton. “People just being present sometimes is enough.”
Two young men were charged with Hadiya’s murder. Her father, Nate, told us when he saw them in court, they flashed gang signs and his first instinct was to rush them, but he showed restraint.