Cleopatra Cowley on Thursday night flashed the sort of smile that only a mother could when talking about her daughter. But that was followed by anguish and tears for a promising teen now gone.
Cowley's appearance on the Rev. Al Sharpton's MSNBC program "PoliticsNation" on Thursday included her first public comments since her 15-year-old daughter, Hadiya Pendleton, was shot and killed earlier this week.
"She loved life, and she was a true teenager, just a kid," Cowley said. "She had aspirations for being an adult but she was just 15 and enjoying it."
Pendleton was a volleyball player and a majorette in her high school band. Her mother recalled how the teen described her recent visit to Washington, D.C. for President Obama's second inauguration.
""It's so clean there mom,'" Cowley said her daughter told her. "She's like, 'I think I'm going into politics,' and I say, 'You know what, baby? That's just the reason why I'm exposing you to different things.' I said, 'You need to be aware that there's more than just this in the world.'"
"This" being the violence plaguing the teen's hometown of Chicago. It was a fact of life she wanted to change. Five years ago, Pendleton appeared in an anti-gang video for the Digital Youth Network.
"So many children out there are in gangs, and it is your job as students to say no to gangs and yes to a great future," she said in the video.
The irony of Pendleton's death now haunts her family.
"Hadiya has lost her life due to exactly what she was trying to help prevent other parents from having an experience for," the teen's cousin, Shatira Wilkes, said Thursday.
Cowley said she always felt her daughter was going to make a difference in the world.
"She was Hadiya. She was just special," she said, choking back tears.
By Thursday night, the reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Pendleton's killer stood at $24,000. Funeral arrangements were still being made.