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Harsh Park Revisited Five Years After Hadiya Pendleton Murder

CHICAGO (CBS)--When Hadiya Pendleton walked into Harsh Park on an unassuming January afternoon five years ago, she could have never known the decision to hang out with friends would mean she would soon become the face of Chicago's gang violence problem.

The 15-year-old honor student was murdered by two gang members, Micheail Ward and Kenenth Williams, convicted this week of first-degree murder in her death.

The convictions brought some sort of solace to her parents, who told reporters Thursday they were satisfied with the verdicts but the pain from losing their daughter would live on.

CBS 2's Vince Gerasole visited Harsh Park Friday, where reminders of the place Hadiya last played with her friends are still alive.

Neighbors in the Kenwood neighborhood where Harsh Park is located spoke about how the convictions of Ward and Williams have changed the mood in the community.

The tree-lined streets and well-manicured homes that line the neighborhood make it hard to believe the park was a scene of a gang-related shooting. On a sunny late summer afternoon, that January day seems far away, but it stays close to the hearts of people who live nearby.

"It put a tarnish on our neighborhood that happily will lift a little bit," said Desiree Sanders.

Sanders remembers small details about the afternoon when Hadiya was shot.

She was watching Jeopardy when she heard the gunshots.

Hadiya's murder gained national attention because of the case's ties to the Obamas.

The park is a mile away from the Obama's Kenwood home. And she participated in Former President Obama's inauguration events before and died.

"Hadiya's  family was just like my family--Hadiya was me and I was her," Michelle Obama said after her death.

Sanders said seeing the young kids playing at the park where Hadiya was shot helps restore her faith in the chance that maybe it won't happen again.

Wedding Photo
A group of ladies poses for a wedding photo in August 2018, near Harsh Park, where Hadiya Pendleton died five years ago. The neighborhood is starting to show signs of recovering from the violence that took Pendleton's life.

"I think the neighbors are now more vigilant--we speak to each other more now, and we know each other better," she said. "When you see the young kids there,  it gives you hope they will grow up safer."



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