TUCSON, Ariz. - The casket for Christina Taylor Green seemed too small to hold the grief and despair of the 2,000 mourners who packed into St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church on Thursday to say goodbye to the 9-year-old girl whose life began and ended with two of the nation's most soul-searching moments.
Reminders of the innocence of the bubbly girl born on Sept. 11, 2001 were everywhere: A group of little girls dressed in frilly dresses and white tights craned to see as their friend's casket rolled into the church and Christina's best friend sneaked them a wave from her place in the processional line.
Outside the church, more little girls and hundreds of other people wearing white and waving American flags lined both sides of the street for more than a quarter-mile to show their support. Hundreds of motorcycle riders from all over stood guard and more than a dozen residents were dressed as angels.
Before the service, Christina's family and closest friends gathered under the enormous American flag recovered from Ground Zero and paused for a moment of silence, holding hands and crying. White-gloved state troopers escorted family and dignitaries into the church as a choir sang hymns.
"She would want to say to us today, 'Enjoy life,"' said Bishop Gerald Kicanas, who presided over the funeral. "She would want to say to us today, 'God has loved me so much. He has put his hand on me and prepared a place for me."'
"Her time to be born was Sept. 11, 2001," he said. "Her time to die was the tragic day, Jan. 8, 2011, just nine years old she was. But she has found her dwelling place in God's mansion. She went home."
As Christina's family grieved, new developments emerged in the case when a man walking his dog found a black bag containing ammunition that authorities believe was discarded by the suspected gunman, 22-year-old Jared Loughner.
Green was one of six people killed when, according to police, 22-year-old Jared Loughner opened fire at a congresswoman's meet-and-greet event at a busy supermarket. The third-grader's funeral is the first for those slain.
Michelle Obama urged parents in a statement to talk to their children about the shooting to help them work through the questions they may have even those who didn't know Christina.
"The questions my daughters have asked are the same ones that many of your children will have and they don't lend themselves to easy answers," she said in a statement. "But they will provide an opportunity for us as parents to teach some valuable lessons about the character of our country, about the values we hold dear, and about finding hope at a time when it seems far away."
President Barack Obama spoke extensively about Green in a nationally televised address in Tucson Wednesday night.
Mr. Obama said that it is incumbent upon the country to live up to the vision of it held by Green, who was born on Sept. 11, 2001 and aspired to be a political leader and a Major League Baseball player.
"Imagine," the president said. "Here was a young girl who was just becoming aware of our democracy; just beginning to understand the obligations of citizenship; just starting to glimpse the fact that someday she too might play a part in shaping her nation's future. She had been elected to her student council; she saw public service as something exciting, something hopeful. She was off to meet her congresswoman, someone she was sure was good and important and might be a role model. She saw all this through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism or vitriol that we adults all too often just take for granted."
"In Christina we see all of our children. So curious, so trusting, so energetic and full of magic," Mr. Obama said. "I want us to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as she imagined it. All of us - we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children's expectations."
Christina Green was among 50 children in "Faces of Hope," a paperback collection of photographs of babies born on the day of the Sept. 11 attacks. Sales of the bookafter Mr. Obama mentioned it Wednesday.
At the church, the focus was on the little girl who was an avid swimmer and dancer, a budding politician and the only girl on her Little League team. Mounds of flowers pink roses and wreaths surrounded the closed casket and a large photo of Christina and her older brother, 11-year-old Dallas, stood at the entrance to the church.
Her father, John Green, recalled in an emotional eulogy how his daughter used to pick blueberries, loved snorkeling and played for hours with her cousins and brother behind the house, directing the activities.
He recalled how once, upon returning from a two-week trip, he found his daughter and his wife dancing in the hallway, full of life and happiness.
"Christina Taylor Green, I can't tell you how much we all miss you," her father said, according to the Arizona Daily Star. "I think you have affected the whole country."
Dante Mitchell, 8, was one of Christina's classmates who came to say goodbye and try to make sense of losing a friend he chased on the playground and battled with in break-dancing contests. He's been sad since the shooting, his mother said, and asked to bring a giant teddy bear to Christina's funeral because she loved animals.
"This was kind of a closure for him. He was in the car coming here saying he was feeling sad about it," said Leshan Mitchell, as she and her son left the service. "He said, 'Mom, I'm feeling really sad now' and I said, 'People who didn't know her are feeling sad, too, and it's OK to cry and it's OK to be angry."
Angie Yrigoyen, who knew Christina through her 11-year-old grandson Dominic, was still emotional as she left the church and said the funeral captured the little girl's spirit in a way that moved her profoundly.
"She was like a grown-up in a child's body," said Yrigoyen, 77, as she broke into tears. "I saw her as a very happy child. I hope the one thing that she brings to our city, our state and country is peace."
Before her funeral, cars were parked on both sides of the road, and traffic was backed up. Members of motorcycle groups from Arizona and California parked their bikes in a group. Several hundred people, many dressed in white T-shirts, stood silently along a road near the church. About 20 people were dressed as angels.
They organized over the Internet and by word of mouth, saying they wanted to be there in case members of a Kansas church showed up to protest. The Westboro Baptist Church threatened to picket the funerals for Christina and other victims, but they backed off, in part because a nationally syndicated radio show agreed to host some of their members.
The church is known for protesting at the funerals of slain servicemen and blaming their deaths on the country's tolerance of homosexuality.
Green's family was honored by a group of Trappist monks in Peosta, Iowa, who
The 160-year-old New Melleray Abbey has been making caskets since 1999, and has a program for donating caskets to families in mourning specifically designed for children, according to its website.
"At our discretion, we frequently donate or discount child caskets to families," the website states.
A U.S. flag that flew atop the World Trade Center.
"You know, I've said it before, but the bookends of her life -- she came into the world on a tragedy on 9/11, and she went out on this tragedy [Saturday] in Arizona. But everything in-between has been wonderful, and she's affected a lot of people," John Green, Christina's father,.
"We're just gonna keep on remembering her forever," her mother Roxanna said. "She was a special little girl."