Hundreds of mourners sobbed silently Monday in Cicero, grieving a young life lost to senseless violence and the unfulfilled dream of Catalina Garcia.
Garcia, 20, a 2006 graduate of Morton East High School, was remembered in the first of five funerals for victims of the Valentine's Day shooting at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb. Several others were injured before the gunman killed himself.
The funeral Mass for Garcia was at Our Lady of the Mount Church in Cicero, followed by burial in Queen of Heaven Cemetery in Hillside.
At the family's request, representatives of national and local media were barred from the service by police.
Inside the church, the Rev. Lawrence Collins delivered a sermon in Spanish to a packed audience. Eulogies were given by NIU President John Peters, two Cicero town officials and Garcia's brother, Jaime.
"It's a good hard-working family," said Staci Foss of Palatine, who works with Garcia's father, Jacinto Garcia. "They were trying to give the kids the best life possible. There's a lot of lost hope here."
It was a somber day for many Cicero residents as the city mourned the loss of a daughter whose goal was to serve the town one day as an elementary school teacher.
"It's just sad the families here (must) go through this," Cicero Town President Larry Dominick told a small crowd of reporters as he exited the church with his wife, Elizabeth. "They will never be the same. I mourn with them today."
Dominick, who served on the Cicero Police Department and retired as deputy superintendent after 20 years, said more should be done to take guns and assault rifles off the streets.
"I don't know what they can do to outlaw them," he said. "This is such a tragedy. There's no words to really describe … we are fighting all over the world to make our country safe. We can't even make our kids going to school safe."
Police officers formed a human barricade around the funeral party and pallbearers carrying Garcia's coffin as they left the church.
Among those who grieved were classmates, friends, neighbors and even strangers from the area Latino community.
"I just wanted to show my support," said Maria Salinas of Berwyn. "One of our young ones again was lost to guns. It's sad that another young life is cut short."
A group of NIU students and staff huddled outside the church to show their support for the family and counter a few protesters from Topeka, Kan.-based Westboro Baptist Church.
The church is classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center and is notorious for protesting funerals of U.S. military personnel killed in the Iraq war.
Morton High School district has crisis counseling teams set up to help students and staff cope when they return to classes today.
School officials will observe a moment of silence and present a memorial message about Garcia to the students. They may also plan a vigil in her memory.