Hadiya Pendleton family focuses on foundation as anniversary of murder draws near

January 24, 2014 (CHICAGO)

Cleopatra Cowley- Pendleton finds comfort in the hugs of her daughter's friends.

"It's great that they are here. It really does help. It's very difficult," Cleopatra said.

On January 29, 2013, Hadiya was fatally shot at a park in the North Kenwood neighborhood on the city's South Side. The King High School honor student was caught in gang crossfire, police said. She and her friends were huddling under a park shelter because it started to rain.

"It was the worse day of my life," Cleopatra said. "It is a blur, because a chunk of me died in January. All the months that followed were insignificant. Even though the calendar moved, I didn't."

Just a week earlier, Hadiya had performed in the inauguration for President Barack Obama, and the shooting had occurred just blocks from his Chicago home. First Lady Michelle Obama attended the girl's funeral.

Cleopatra and Nathaniel Pendleton said they rely heavily on their faith, and they watch videos of their daughter to celebrate "a beautiful life cut short."

"It's day by day. Keeping it moving. The busier, the better," Nathaniel said.

Hadiya's younger brother, Nate Junior, is 11. He often read in his sister's room and wears her pajamas to keep her spirit alive.

"I miss her jokes," Nate Jr. said. "I listen to a lot of the same music she would listen to."

"I have her picture on my alarm clock so, 'Alright, Hadiya, I'm up!'" Nathaniel said. The Pendletons have not shied away from the spotlight, saying they do it so that no other parent will have to experience their pain.

In the past year, they have been guests of the president at the State of the Union Address, spoken on Capitol Hill during gun violence hearings, and joined lawmakers in a push to pass a gun bill named after Hadiya.

Now, the family is focusing on the Hadiya Pendleton Foundation .

"My hope is to become worldwide and change the way kids think," Nathaniel said.

"In memory of who she was, I want to focus on peace and bring about that change, positive direction, reach the population and make them better," Cleopatra said.

The Pendletons have not heard from the men charged in Hadiya's murder. Cleopatra said she has not been able to forgive them, but also said God isn't done with her yet.

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