The casket covered in hand-written tributes is carried out of the funeral home, as an unknown woman reaches out to touch it. Many mourners, who were asked to wear white attend the funeral for 14-year-old Shyanne Charles in Scarborough on Saturday, July 28, 2012. She was killed during a shooting that took place at a BBQ on Danzig St, July 16.
Credits: Veronica Henri/QMI Agency
TORONTO -- The sweet, timid voice of 14-year-old Shyanne Charles sang a love song to a packed funeral home Saturday morning, her girlish voice rising above the sniffles and sobs to begin the service.
The girl whose soft voice haunted the crowd would never get the chance to fully experience the love she was singing about; her life was cut short earlier this month.
Charles was one of two people killed in a mass shooting that also injured 23 others on Danzig St. in the city's east end on July 16.
A woman who said she lived in the same apartment building as Charles' boyfriend spoke at the podium.
"She was always so respectful, saying hi to everyone's mothers and asking, 'How are you?'"
The woman said her spirits would often be lifted at the sight of the polite little girl enjoying her time with her boyfriend.
"They would always sit on the little bench in the lobby. I'd walk through the door and they'd just be sitting there, and I thought, I've never seen anything so pure and innocent as these two little kids. They were so young and the light would just shine through them," she said.
The funeral home was overflowing with people, all wearing white at the family's request. A gold-framed school picture of a grinning Charles was hung above the entrance door.
Gun violence and how to prevent it was a major theme during the hour-long service, with many people in the community speaking up about gang crime being a huge problem that needed to be solved.
"The world is watching. I've gotten phone calls from near and far saying 'What is happening in your community?'" a young man said, eliciting a wave of nods of understanding from the crowd.
The man who led the service peppered it with inspiration about preventing senseless acts, saying that there was a war going on in the streets and children were on the front lines.
"The ones that you love, check up on them. When you wait up for them, see if their eyes are red or if they're drunk. When they're not home, search their room, for God's sake!" he said, and the entire crowd broke out in applause.
Throughout the service photographs of Charles were shown on a projector, and "I'll be Missing You" was nearly drowned out by sobs.
Teianne Polera, 15, had a few classes with Charles and said she will miss her passion for life.
"She was just great to be around. She loved basketball and was always smiling," Polera said.
Many people who spoke encouraged the community to support Charles' family - her mother, father and three siblings.
"If a child loses a parent, it is an orphan. If a spouse loses another spouse, they are a widow. But there is no name for someone who loses a child because it's never supposed to happen," a woman sobbed.
One woman said she remembers when Charles' mother, Afifa, was pregnant with the now-deceased girl.
"We were there to see Shyanne come into this world, and we watched Afifa being a young mother raising her daughter the best she can. Even though she was afraid, she never had much example of knowing what to do, but she did her best," the woman said.
"Over the years we watched Shyanne grow up, and I would see a reflection of her mother in her, her smile, that joy in her eyes. She was such a beautiful person because of the work her mother put into her - she surrounded her with love and family," the woman said.
The service ended with Charles' singing, and the casket was carried out while people sobbed and cried out "Shyanne!"