CHICAGO--Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton was never particularly interested in politics. She viewed the workings of Congress from afar, giving barely a passing thought to the policies being debated in Washington.
Then her 15-year-year-old daughter, Hadiya Pendleton, was shot to death while seeking shelter from the rain on the way home from school.
"My life has been forever changed because of what someone else did," said Cowley-Pendleton, sitting in the living room of her Bronzeville condominium. "I'm not going to be extremely political, but if I can help someone else not go through what we've gone through, then I have to do what I can.
"These are the cards we have been dealt. If these are the shoes I need to walk in, I don't mind walking in them."
Hadiya's murder on Jan. 29 made her a national symbol of gun violence in Chicago. Until then, Cowley-Pendleton thought that if she kept her children busy, paid close attention to where they were and taught them well, there would be no need to worry about Hadiya and her 10-year-old brother, Nathaniel Jr. getting swept away by violence.
"We were just regular parents who were slapped in the face and had our child snatched away from us," she said. "The thought of her not being here because of guns is unfathomable."
Cowley-Pendleton, 37, and Hadiya's father, Nathaniel Pendleton, 42, sat down on Wednesday for an exclusive interview with the Tribune, explaining how they have coped as a family in the aftermath of their daughter's murder.
Along their block, purple ribbons around trees blew gently in the wind, a simple memorial put in place by neighbors and friends. Inside their home, there are so many memories of Hadiya, memories that leave Cowley-Pendleton smiling one minute and crying the next.
Until this week, there had been no time to reminisce.
As Hadiya became the poster child for the problems of guns and violence, her parents were busy making sure her funeral was the kind of send-off she once told them she wanted. They were unaware that while they were cloistered inside mourning their loss, others were turning their daughter into a symbol.