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Funeral held for Christina Green, 9-year-old victim of Tucson shooting

The U.S. flag that flew atop the World Trade Center is displayed at the service for Christina Taylor Green, who was born on Sept. 11, 2001. 'I felt I had to be here to pay my respects,' says a mourner outside the church.

January 13, 2011|By Seema Mehta and Michael Muskal, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Tucson and Los Angeles — Less than a week after the deadly mass shooting that left six dead and 13 injured, Tucson began to bury the dead on Thursday.

The first funeral from Saturday's shooting was for the youngest victim, Christina Taylor Green, a 9-year-old girl who was born on Sept. 11, 2001, the day of the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil.

The U.S. flag that flew atop the World Trade Center was displayed at the funeral, linking the two tragedies that served as parentheses enclosing the brief span of the child who has become a symbol of how violence can shatter a life.

Hundreds of mourners lined the roadway leading to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church, where the funeral began at 1 p.m. MST. Many wore white and carried a single rose.

"I felt I had to be here to pay my respects," said David Johnson, 38, of Phoenix. "It was something I felt really strongly about. It hits really close to home."

According to the program, Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas led the service, a Mass of resurrection. Readings included Psalm 23 and John 14:1-6.

The University of Arizona choir performed as did a piper, who played "Amazing Grace."

The front of the program had a picture of a smiling Christina wearing a tiara. On the back were the lyrics to Billy Joel's "Lullaby," with its haunting lyric, "Good night, my angel, now it's time to sleep."

Her family escorted the coffin into and out of the church.

With red-rimmed eyes, Rachel Cebo and Trisha Silva left the funeral for Green, who they knew because they work at the YMCA where she attended day-care.

"It was very beautiful, very peaceful," said Cebo, 25.

Silva, 28, said the church was packed with mourners and had many pictures of Christina alongside her older brother.

"I think it helps to let the family know about how much support they have," she said.

Christina, the daughter of a Dodgers baseball scout and the granddaughter of noted former baseball manager Dallas Green, sang in her church choir and was an athlete. She loved dancing, gymnastics and swimming, and wanted to be the first woman to play major league baseball, President Obama said Wednesday in his tribute to her and the other victims and heroes of Saturday.

A friend took Christina, who had been elected to her class council, to the Safeway shopping plaza to meet Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Christina wanted to talk about politics with the lawmaker, who was meeting with constituents.

Shots were fired from a semi-automatic pistol and Giffords was critically injured with a head wound. By the time the shooting ended and several people in the crowd apprehended suspect Jared Lee Loughner, six were dead, including Christina. Thirteen were injured from the gunfire.

"The truth is that none of us can know exactly what triggered this vicious attack. None of us can know with any certainty what might have stopped those shots from being fired, or what thoughts lurked in the inner recesses of a violent man's mind," Obama said Wednesday night.

"She showed an appreciation for life uncommon for a girl her age," Obama said in what became a eulogy for the girl and a plea for national harmony.

"I want to live up to her expectations, I want our democracy to be as good as Christina imagined it, I want America to be as good as Christina imagined it," the president said.

It is scheduled to be followed on Friday by the funeral of federal judge John Roll, who was killed alongside Christina. Roll had left Mass and stopped by to see Giffords, a friend.

Christina will be buried in a red oak casket made by Trappist monks from Peosta, Iowa. The New Melleray Abbey has been making caskets since 1999, and donates caskets for families who have lost children.

En route to the church, there were a few dozen people wearing large white angel wings, initially created to block the family from seeing protesters from Westboro Baptist Church. The church agreed not to protest Green's funeral after two radio stations gave it airtime to broadcast its extremist beliefs.

michael.muskal@latimes.com

seema.mehta@latimes.com

Mehta reported from Arizona and Muskal from Los Angeles

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