Arizona dignitaries and the family and friends of 9-year-old shooting victim Christina-Taylor Green gathered Thursday to celebrate her life during the first funeral service for the six people who lost their lives in last week's tragic shooting in Tucson.
Green's small casket was brought into the church underneath a flag that flew at the World Trade Center on 9/11, a tribute to a young girl who was born on the day the Twin Towers fell and died in another tragedy outside of an Arizona supermarket.
Green's family members met the casket and solemnly escorted it into St. Elizabeth-Ann Seton Catholic Church for the afternoon ceremony.
The church was filled with roughly 1,800 mourners who paid their respects to the young girl whose life was cut short as she stood waiting to meet Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz. The husband of the severely wounded Giffords, Astronaut Mark Kelley, was on hand for the service, as were Arizona's two Senators, John McCain and Jon Kyl, both Republicans.
Also in the pews were many of Green's young friends, classmates and Little League teammates. About one-quarter of the attendees were children, according to Arizona Daily Star's Stephanie Innes, who attended the service as a pool reporter.
"She wanted to make a difference in her life. She wanted to make her mark, and she did so in so powerful a way that even she cannot imagine," said Bishop Gerald Kicanas during his homily, adding that the slain 9-year-old was also an organ donor.
The only other speaker during the service was Christina-Taylor's father, John Green, who spoke directly to his daughter.
"You have affected the whole country," Green said, according to Innes. He also shared his thanks to the Tucson community for their support.
The somber hour-and-a-half long mass included songs by the University of Arizona choir. A friend of Christina-Taylor's sang Billy Joel's "Lullaby."
As a bagpiper played at the end of the service, Green's mother, father and brother escorted her casket back outside to a hearse waiting under the 9/11 flag.
Representatives from the New York City Fire Department brought the 9/11 flag to Arizona for the service, where it was hung from two Tucson Fire Department ladder trucks. The enormous banner includes the remnants of a 30-foot American flag that survived the 2001 terror attacks.
Christina-Taylor was the youngest of all the victims of the shooting rampage in Tucson last weekend.
The 9-year-old, who was born on 9/11, had been recently elected a member of her elementary school's student council and was intensely interested in politics.
President Barack Obama spoke about the third-grader at a memorial service in Tucson last night. "I want us to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as she imagined it," Obama said.
Her classmates from Mesa Verde Elementary School left handwritten messages alongside colorful ribbons, candles and flowers placed at the chain link fence near their playground.
School officials said crisis teams would be at the school for, "many days ... as long as we need to be here."
Many of Christina-Taylor's classmates were expected to attend the funeral, which grief experts say can be important, as long as they are prepared and a loved one goes with them.