Her godfather, Damon Stewart, said someone on Facebook had asked what made Pendleton's death more noteworthy than those of more than 40 people who had already been slain in Chicago this year — many without so much as a mention in local newspapers. The response, he said, was obvious to him.
"She's important because all those other people who died are important," Stewart said. "She's important because all of those lives and voices of those families who were ignored, she now speaks for them. ... I don't believe in coincidence. God needed an angel. God needed to send somebody for us to change."
The Rev. Michael Pfleger, a prominent Chicago priest, said Pendleton was the face of an "epidemic of violence causing funeral processions around the country."
"Sisters and brothers, I beg you," he said. "We must become like Jesus. We must become the interrupters of funeral processions."
Police have said the shooting appears to be a case of mistaken identity involving gang members who believed the park, which is near Lake Michigan and north of the University of Chicago, was their territory. No charges have been filed.
Pendleton's death brought new attention to Chicago's homicide rate. It came in a January that was the city's deadliest in a decade. In 2012, Chicago recorded 506 homicides.
A glossy, eight-page funeral program included photos of Pendleton and details about her life, including her favorite foods — cheeseburgers, fig cookies, Chinese and ice cream — and the numerous school and church organizations she was involved in. The program also included a copy of a handwritten note from President Obama addressed to the girl's family.
"We know that no words from us can soothe the pain, but rest assured that we are praying for you, and that we will continue to work as hard as we can to end this senseless violence," it said.
Other dignitaries at the service included Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett — all of whom are from Chicago.