Shooting victim Hadiya Pendleton's father: 'Missing her smile'

February 4, 2013 9:46:39 PM PST
The mother and father of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton have a message Monday night about the violence that claimed her life.

ABC7's John Garcia talked to them tonight in their first sit-down interview, and they say it's time for parents to step up and take responsibility for their children.

Cleo and Nate Pendleton are model parents. They carefully raised Hadiya to be a beautiful, talented, and smart young girl with a bright future -- a future that ended suddenly when a gunman randomly opened fire at kids gathered in a park after school last week.

"Just her smile... missing her smile," said Nate Pendleton. "The greatest daughter a man could ever have."

It has been nearly a week, but their grief is still fresh and deep.

"I'm proof that you can do everything right and it can still be taken away from you," said Cleo Pendleton.

Hadiya's death has brought attention from around the world to the problems of gun violence and gangs in Chicago.

"She touched a lot of people, and now she touched far more people than i can ever imagine," said Nate Pendleton.

Students from Lindblom High School marched near the scene of the shooting earlier Monday, calling for solutions from city leaders. They say they know next time it could be one of them.

Pendleton was a volleyball player and majorette at King College Prep. The students from Lindblom say they are asking city leaders to meet with them to search for answers to the violent crime problems throughout the city. That is why Nate Pendleton says he is speaking out now as well.

"Now, maybe you can raise a deeper awareness to them, letting them know that this stuff is not a political thing or a race thing, it is everybody's thing," said Nate Pendleton.

Governor Pat Quinn, who stopped by the house to offer his support, echoed that sentiment Monday night.

"There are no words in the English language or any language to relieve the pain," said Quinn.

Hadiya's parents say their religious faith is helping them cope with their loss, and they are speaking out tonight in the hope that their pain might help prevent tragedy for another family.

"This feeling - I don't want anyone, any parent, to ever have to feel - ever," said Cleo Pendleton.

Family members say they're overwhelmed at the outpouring of support from Chicago and around the world, and the $40,000 that has been donated as a reward. However, right now they say they are focused on preparing for her funeral, and after that they will focus on finding her killer. Police have no suspects in custody.