Remembering Hadiya Pendleton, 1 year after shooting death - FOX 32 News Chicago

Remembering Hadiya Pendleton, 1 year after shooting death

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Nate and Cleo Pendleton. Nate and Cleo Pendleton.
Michael Ward, 18, and Kenneth Williams, 20. Michael Ward, 18, and Kenneth Williams, 20.
CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

The year 2013 was one of Chicago's most violent years in its history. By Jan. 29, 2013, there were already 42 homicides in the city.

Hadiya Pendleton was victim number 42 and she quickly became a symbol of the epidemic of violence in Chicago sparking an international debate on guns and gangs.

Wednesday marks one year since the fatal shooting of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton. Her murder stunned the city and the nation. But it also inspired renewed efforts to stop gun violence in Chicago.

Hadiya's family and friends say they will honor her later on Wednesday at an after-school memorial by reading poems, playing her favorite songs and showing lots of love. Her parents will have a family gathering at their Bronzeville home, visit her gravesite and release balloons at that private event.

FOX 32's Darlene Hill spent some time with her parents this week, and talked with them about how they've turned their sadness into a sense of hope for other teenagers.

Last year at this time, Nathaniel and Cleo Pendleton were at Children's Memorial Hospital and had just been told that their 15-year old daughter had died after being shot in the back.

Cleo later told me that she never wanted to be part of this sorority, a group of mothers who have experienced the loss of a child.

While 12 months have gone by, this grieving mother says in her heart it still feels like the day Hadiya died.

"Yeah the calendar has moved and the months have passed, but you know, we're still in the hospital on the floor. Emotionally that's where we are," Hadiya's parents said.

The Pendleton family doesn't like to think about the night, a year ago when Hadiya died, just hours after being shot in the back while hanging with friends in a park on Chicago's South Side blocks away from President Obama's home.

"Right now the hardest day for me is looking at the calendar and seeing January 29th," Cleo Pendleton said "There's no word for that symbolizes and the hurt that came with that."

"I know there's going to be some prayer, some poems, some tears and hopefully we can just reflect on the life we had with her," Nathaniel Pendleton said.

Pendleton and her friends had just finished exams at King College Prep when they went to the park.

They tried to seek shelter from the rain when gang members, who mistakenly thought they were rivals, sprayed bullets on the honor students. Two of them were struck when they all tried to run, Hadiya fatally.

A week earlier, the 15-year-old had performed in the President's Inauguration with her majorette team.

She was looking forward to spending the summer in Paris as an exchange student, but instead, their daughter was laid to rest.

Her parents called it the perfect farewell for their princess. First Lady Michelle Obama was there to comfort the family, and the next week they were on the capitol during the 2013 state of the union address when president Obama used Hadiya's murder to push for stricter gun laws.

A year later, the only thing the Pendletons say they think about are "the what if's." What ifs like graduation, Hadiya being excited about getting her license and someday married.

"I feel like I was very much robbed of the things I was looking forward too. Things that we were entitled to, you know as parents," Cleo said.

Now the Pendletons say they want to make sure another parent isn't robbed of those precious memories.

They've started a foundation in Hadiya's name to help stop gunfire in the neighborhood.

Amber Mitchell is one of Hadiya's friends and classmates. The two spent the night together days before the shooting.

"These are her PJs, and the journal. I write something in it every day," Mitchell said.

Mitchell keeps everything that reminds her of Hadiya in a memory box. From the last desert they shared, to Hadiya's toothbrush. And even though the messages don't go through, Amber says she still finds herself sending her best friend a text message, praying for a different kind of response.

It's clear the community has not forgotten Hadiya. A large donation will be made to the Hadiya Pendleton Foundation in her honor on Wednesday, at the private memorial. The undisclosed amount comes from a McDonald's franchise owner, who expects the money to help Chicago youth.

Both parents told the Chicago Tribune that on this anniversary, they will renew their efforts in the fight for stronger gun laws.

"If we have the courage to wake up every day knowing our daughter is gone, then we demand the courage of our elected leaders to do everything in their power to end gun violence," the Pendletons said. "We are not alone in this fight."

Michael Ward and Kenneth Williams, ages 18 and 20 at the time of the shooting, were arrested and charged with the 15-year-old girl's murder.

They're awaiting trial. The Pendletons say they will be in the courtroom, seeking justice but not a day goes by they don't think about their princess, Hadiya.

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