Mourners pack church for nine-year-old’s funeral

In this photo shot by a pool photographer and later vetted and approved for release by the Green family, John Green, top right, kisses his son Dallas on the head as the family follows the casket of daughter and sister Christina Green, at her funeral mass in Tucson, Ariz. Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2011. At left is mother Roxanna and right is Camden Grant, Christina's godmother's son. Christina Green was the youngest gunned down in last Saturday's shooting rampage in Tucson. (AP Photo/Rick Wilking, Pool)

Some 2,000 mourners packed a Catholic church to honor Christina Taylor Green, the bubbly 9-year-old who was the youngest victim of the Arizona shootings, while hundreds more lined streets outside in a show of unity and support.

Christina’s was the first of half-a-dozen funerals in the coming days, and was to be followed Friday with a service for U.S. District Judge John Roll at the same church, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. Security was expected to be tight at the ceremony, with many federal judges among the mourners.

Roll and Christina were among six people killed Saturday when a gunman opened fire on a meet-and-greet for Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in a Tucson supermarket parking lot. Thirteen others were wounded, including Giffords, who was shot in the head and gravely injured.

Roll, who served nearly 40 years, had stopped by the event after attending Mass to say hello to the congresswoman.

On Thursday, though, the focus was on Christina as the mourners said goodbye to the joyful, patriotic and athletic girl whose life began on Sept. 11, 2001, and ended on what has become another day of national tragedy.

Eight-year-old Dante Williams had only one thing on his mind: he wanted to leave a giant teddy bear, Brownie, for his slain friend.

The third-grader who attended school with the dark-haired girl recalled chasing her at recess and having dance contests with her in the schoolyard — mostly break-dancing, he said. He bought the stuffed animal, a toy nearly as tall as himself, to leave by Christina’s casket because she loved animals, but there was no room.

Instead, his mother said he would take it to school and leave it at a growing memorial there.

“This was kind of a closure for him. He was in the car coming here saying he was feeling sad about it,” said Leshan Mitchell, as she and her son left the service. “He said, ‘Mom, I’m feeling really sad now’ and I said, ‘People who didn’t know her are feeling sad, too, and it’s OK to cry and it’s OK to be angry.”

Outside the church, mourners lined both sides of the street outside for more than a quarter-mile to show their support. Hundreds of motorcycle riders from all over stood guard. More than a dozen residents were dressed as angels and some mourners dressed in white placed candles alongside the road leading to the church.

As Christina’s family grieved, new developments emerged in the case when a man walking his dog found a black bag containing ammunition that authorities believe was discarded by the suspected gunman, 22-year-old Jared Loughner.

Also Thursday, police released tapes of law enforcement radio traffic after the shooting that reveal a dispatcher urgently sending deputies to the scene, and one of the deputies calling for more help: “We need a lot more units here.”

Before the service, Christina’s family and closest friends gathered under the enormous the American flag recovered from Ground Zero and paused for a moment of silence, holding hands and crying. White-gloved state troopers escorted family and dignitaries into the church as a choir sang hymns.

“She would want to say to us today, ‘Enjoy life,’” said Bishop Gerald Kicanas, who presided over the funeral. “She would want to say to us today, ‘God has loved me so much. He has put his hand on me and prepared a place for me.’”

“Her time to be born was Sept. 11, 2001,” he said. “Her time to die was the tragic day, Jan. 8, 2011, just nine years old she was. But she has found her dwelling place in God’s mansion. She went home.”

Kicanas shared memories of the little girl who was an avid swimmer and dancer, a budding politician and the only female on her Little League team. Mounds of flowers — pink roses and wreaths — surrounded the closed casket and a large photo of Christina and her older brother, 11-year-old Dallas, stood at the entrance to the church.

Her father, John Green, recalled in an emotional eulogy how his daughter used to pick blueberries, loved snorkeling and played for hours with her cousins and brother behind the house, directing the activities.

He recalled how once, upon returning from a two-week trip, he found his daughter and his wife dancing in the hallway, full of life and happiness.

“Christina Taylor Green, I can’t tell you how much we all miss you,” her father said. “I think you have affected the whole country.”

Angie Yrigoyen, who knew Christina through her 11-year-old grandson Dominic, was still emotional as she left the church and said the funeral captured the little girl’s spirit in a way that moved her profoundly.

“She was like a grown-up in a child’s body,” said Yrigoyen, 77, as she broke into tears. “I saw her as a very happy child. I hope the one thing that she brings to our city, our state and country is peace.”

Copyright © 2011 The Associated Press

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One Response to "Mourners pack church for nine-year-old’s funeral"

  1. Keith  January 17, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    As I’ve noted elsewhere, I firmly believe that our US “wild west” culture…a culture that since our country’s founding, has officially enabled (if not encouraged) personal violence by allowing ordinary citizens to have easy access to lethal weapons and other firearms…has a lot to do with the fact that ours remains among the most violent cultures on the face of the planet.

    Unfortunately, and as the debate in these threads has suggested, that “wild west” culture is now horrifically embedded in our psyche in the United States of America and is clearly not about to go away anytime soon.

    And while I will readily agree that “guns don’t cause crime” I also find it extremely hard to discount the equally compelling argument that their easy availability to ordinary citizens in the United States of America is certainly a major contributor to that country’s relatively high crime rate (particularly its homicide rate) as compared to other nations.

    Specifically, if the relatively easy ability to obtain and then carry a concealed firearm were NOT options open to that certifiable nut case down in Tucson, I doubt seriously whether a funeral for this absolutely innocent 9-year old little girl would now be making headline news.

    For, just as such things as airline crashes and other such horrific disasters often entail a series of human decisions and the ability to carry them out, so, too, does the ready access to such widespread lethal weaponry in our US culture often lead to (and thereby enable) the final decision to rob someone at gunpoint, or blow them away in the heat of the moment as was the case with this little girl.

    That is, without ready access to a gun in the mix, I firmly believe this (admittedly mentally disturbed) perpetrator of such horrific human agony might very well have thought twice about committing such a horrific crime. And if he hadn’t thought twice (or was incapable of doing so), at least there may have been some forewarning to others about exactly what he was preparing to do.

    As I’ve noted earlier in similar comments in another thread, such things as the number of people in country (or, as others have opined in that other threads, the population density of that country) don’t seem to matter with such things.

    Rather, I firmly believe it’s the embedded CULTURE of a country…the series of human norms and values that make up a nation and which vast majority of its people hold near and dear…that are the driving forces as to whether (or not) that country survives and thrives over the long haul, or fades away.

    And, sadly, by any measure, the “wild west”, “gun toting”, “police stare” mentality that seems to now pervade life in the United States of America is simply one more indicator that society there has irretrievably broken down.

    Indeed, our once strong institutions like the family now lie in ruins. But, when these indicators are also combined with our crumbling social and physical infrastructure, an increasingly debt-ridden (and horrifically corrupt) private and public financial system, an education system that freely awards high school diplomas and college degrees to functionally illiterate people, along with the widespread loss of personal and religious freedoms and values, such a nation cannot long endure. But when all of these indicators are further combined with the increasing breakdown and corruption of our nation’s entire form of government, such indicators…taken as a whole…serve as yet MORE irrefutable proof at the entire societal fabric that has traditionally underwritten our United States of America is now well on its way to the dustbin of history.

    Indeed, such an increasingly sick society cannot last for very much longer.

    And while I once proudly served for over two decades in the armed forces of the United States of America, and while I will always cherish my US Citizenship, I’m now very sad to also admit that I’m relieved I don’t have to live there anymore. Never, in a million years, did I EVER think I would harbor such strong, negative feelings about life my native land!

    But, I’ll also bet that I’m absolutely NOT alone in harboring those strong negative feelings about my homeland, particularly among the many millions of OTHER peace-loving US citizens who now find it necessary to install all manner of bars on their windows, padlocks on their doors and increasingly sophisticated alarm systems in their homes, all the while feeling an overwhelming need to carry concealed weapons at all times so as to offer themselves an increasingly impotent form of “protection” and “security”.

    Indeed, my hunch is that those same strong feelings of regret are now strongest among those poor souls who are still forced to live (based on economics, job and and/or family considerations) in our major metropolitan areas where gun-toting mobs and drug lords have now increasingly turned those once peaceful parts of our nation into de-facto war zones.

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