Christina-Taylor Green wanted to help others and make a difference - and she has done that more powerfully than she could have ever imagined, mourners were told at the 9-year-old Tucson girl's funeral Thursday.
The third-grader's life was celebrated in a traditional Roman Catholic funeral Mass attended by 1,800 people who packed St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church on Tucson's northwest side. People started lining up at 10:30 a.m. for the 1 p.m. service, and those who didn't fit inside stood and listened to the 90-minute Mass from outside. More than 1,000 others lined the road outside the church entrance.
Christina-Taylor was shot and killed Saturday as she and her neighbor waited to meet U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords at a northwest-side supermarket. She is the youngest of the six people who died in the rampage, in which 13, including Giffords, were wounded.
Friends and family members walked up to the church underneath the national 9/11 flag, which hung between firetrucks from the Tucson and Northwest fire departments. The 20-by-30-foot flag was mostly destroyed in the attack on the twin towers on Sept, 11, 2001, which is also the day Christina-Taylor was born. Retired flags from other states are being used to repair it.
New York Fire Department firefighter Jimmy Sands, a volunteer with the nonprofit New York Says Thank You Foundation, brought it to Tucson after learning about Christina-Taylor's death.
Pictures of a smiling Christina-Taylor lined the church, along with flowers, most of them pink and white with pink bows. About one-quarter of the mourners inside the church were children, many of them students at Mesa Verde Elementary School, where Christina-Taylor had just been elected to the student council. She'd gone to meet Giffords Saturday because she wanted to learn more about government.
Roxanna and John Green followed their daughter's casket into the church, holding onto Christina-Taylor's only sibling, 11-year-old Dallas. As they proceeded to the front, those who came to honor her sang the hymn, "Gather Your People."
"Christina-Taylor Green calls us together this afternoon. This is her celebration. She centers our attention. She stands before us, speaks to us, a little girl teaches us the word of God," Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson said in his homily.
"This is her appointed time, her time to speak. Like when the young Christ stood up in the temple and opened the scroll, we now listen in silence and awe, amazed as her life speaks to us."
Kicanas spoke about Christina-Taylor's love of baseball - not softball, he said emphatically, drawing laughter.
"She had her time to outshine the boys in baseball," Kicanas said. "She was the best hitter in the league."
Christina-Taylor was the only girl on her Canyon del Oro Little League team, and came from a baseball family. Dad John Green is a baseball scout and grandfather Dallas Green pitched in the major leagues, managed the Philadelphia Phillies when they won the World Series in 1980 and built the Chicago Cubs into contender later in the '80s as general manager.
While there were some smiles at the event, they were outweighed by tears.
"That dreadful Saturday morning, Christina-Taylor went to meet and greet Gabby, her congresswoman, her model and exemplar," Kicanas said. "Instead she met God, her Father, Jesus Christ, her friend."
Hymns during the service included "Amazing Grace" and "Like a Child Rests." After the University of Arizona choir sang Ave Maria, Christina-Taylor's father spoke directly to his daughter.
"Christina-Taylor Green, I can't tell you how much we all miss you," John Green said. "I know you would be very proud to have a 9/11 flag here today."
Green told his daughter he will never forget watching her running around frog ponds, picking blackberries and laughing with her cousins and brother. He talked about the family's years in Maryland, and then in Pennsylvania, where they lived for several years.
He said he could still see her sledding with neighborhood kids in their backyard - and "of course," he said to her, "you'd be giving all the directions."
After the family moved to Arizona, Christina-Taylor enjoyed taking walks in the desert with her grandmother.
One thing he said he'll miss most is coming home from two weeks on the road for his job to the sound of music in his house and the sight of Christina-Taylor and her mom, "dressed up to the nines" and dancing in the hallways of their house together.
"That's something she loved to do with her mother," he said. "And her brother, Dallas. They loved snorkeling. They loved swimming together. They were best buddies. You always have your sister here with you, Dallas. She loves you very much."
He told his daughter that her whole family is very proud of her.
"This is a terrible tragedy for all of us. You are familiar with that, you were born on 9/11. You've been through this before," he said. "I think you've affected the whole country."
He then read from a poem written for his family by a friend, telling Christina-Taylor that it summed up how he felt:
"Tiny angel, can you tell me, why have you gone away? You weren't here for very long. Why is it you couldn't stay? Tiny angel shook her head, these things I do not know. But I do know that you love me, and I love you so."
Green also addressed the mourners, saying his family is proud to call Tucson home, and that he has so many people to thank, people who have reached out since the tragedy.
"I do know she's affected a lot of people in Tucson and we are very proud to be a member of that community. Just looking around us, we know that we have people who love her, love her family. And everybody is going to be okay. She would want that."
Green's words drew applause from the crowd, which included Giffords' husband, Mark Kelly; her sister, Melissa Giffords; Tucson Mayor Bob Walkup; and Arizona's U.S. senators, Jon Kyl and John McCain.
The mourners then fell silent as family friend Katy Martin sang the Billy Joel song "Lullabye," which the family chose as their daughter's farewell song. The words to the song were printed on the back of the funeral program. "Goodnight, my Angel, time to close your eyes," the song begins. And it concludes: "Someday we'll all be gone, But lullabies go on and on. … They never die. That's how you and I will be."
Near the end of the Mass, Kicanas said that in death, Christina-Taylor had given to others as she was an organ donor.
"What a beautiful girl she was," he said.
Contact reporter Stephanie Innes at 573-4134 or email@example.com