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‘Heartbroken’ Michelle Obama to attend Saturday funeral of Hadiya Pendleton

Updated: March 10, 2013 6:19AM



A “heartbroken” first lady Michelle Obama is planning on attending the Saturday funeral services for slain teenager Hadiya Pendleton, who has become a national symbol for the growing problem of gun and gang violence in the city of Chicago.

Obama will be accompanied to the funeral by Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to the president, and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

“As a mother and Chicagoan, the first lady was heartbroken to learn of the tragic loss of Hadiya Pendleton due to senseless gun violence,” said Kristina Schake, the first lady’s communications director. “Too many times, we’ve seen young people struck down with so much of their lives ahead of them. The first lady is traveling to her funeral on Saturday to offer her condolences and support to Hadiya’s family and loved ones.”

Hadiya was gunned down last month at a North Kenwood neighborhood park.

Hadiya attended President Barack Obama’s inauguration last month, performing as a baton-twirling majorette with her King College Prep school band at a party sponsored by U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis. The teen had condemned gun violence in a 2008 public service announcement.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson said Thursday: “She went to the White House to see the president, and now the people in the White House are coming to see her. But they’ll not see her, they’ll view her, and that is so painful.”

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said she’s “grateful” the first lady is returning to Chicago to pay her respects to the family of a child who died in a community both women call home.

“It’s less than a mile from where I live. This impacts the community in which we both live and the ward in which we both live,” Preckwinkle, who lives in the Hyde Park-Kenwood area of Chicago, told the Chicago Sun-Times on Thursday.

The park where Hadiya was killed is also less the a mile from the Obama family’s Kenwood home.

“I am grateful that the first lady will be coming to the city. It will increase attention to this issue — the disturbing level of gun violence in our city. I know it will be of great consolation to the Pendleton family,” Preckwinkle said, adding that, she, too will be at the Saturday service.

During an unrelated news conference this week, Preckwinkle reflected on Hadiya’s death and the loss of a “promising” young woman.

She said again Thursday: “Frankly the deaths of any of our young people is a tragedy. Sometimes we make distinctions between those who are young and promising and those who are gang-involved,” but she said that “redemption” is always possible, and those youths with problems shouldn’t be forgotten.

“A lot of troubled teenagers turn out to be responsible adults,” she said.

Hadiya’s wake and funeral will be at 10 a.m. Saturday at Greater Harvest Baptist Church, 5141 S. State. The family chose the church because it can accommodate between 800 and 1,000 people.

Shatira Wilks, Hadiya’s cousin, said Thursday that the family was now immersed in the logistics accompanying the first lady’s presence at the funeral.

“Our whole dynamics have changed,” Wilks said.

Contributing: Lisa Donovan



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