NPR : Tell Me More

Filed Under:

Pain Is 'Indescribable' For Gun Victim Pendleton's Mother

Play associated audio

Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton was leading a meeting at work last month when she got a phone call any mother would call horrific. Her 15-year-old daughter, Hadiya Pendleton, had been shot while with friends on Chicago's South Side.

"I went into temporary shock, I grabbed my nearest coworker ... [and said] 'Help me understand what they're saying, because clearly they're not talking about my baby,'" she tells Michel Martin, host of NPR's Tell Me More. When she got to the hospital, a nurse told her Pendleton had died.

Hadiya Pendleton was shot just days after traveling to Washington, D.C., to participate in festivities surrounding President Obama's inauguration. Her death made national headlines, adding fuel to calls for stricter gun control and focusing attention on Chicago, where more than 500 people were killed last year.

But, Cowley-Pendleton says, the Chicago neighborhood wasn't the problem. "It wasn't that she was in a bad neighborhood and you would expect this bad crime to occur. She was in the right place, doing the right thing, and it was just a bad guy in the wrong place," she says.

This week, Cowley-Pendleton was a guest of the first lady at the State of the Union address. In calling on Congress to vote on his gun control plan, the president mentioned Pendleton, who was shot just a mile away from his Chicago house. Cowley-Pendleton said being there was difficult "because all you want is your baby back. But the reality is, you can't ... So to have someone as large as the president talk about your baby, it's an honor. It's an absolute honor."

When asked what should be done to curb gun violence, she says she still has a lot of reading and research to do about gun policy. But she says the country needs to start thinking about penalties for gun offenders that would make them think twice about their actions.

Cowley-Pendleton says her job now is to keep talking about her daughter's story, in hopes of informing the public debate and preventing future tragedies.

"Hadiya's been murdered. She's been buried now. But the pain — this pain — is indescribable. ... I would never, never want anyone to feel this pain. It's irrecoverable."

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit

WAMU 88.5

A Conversation With "Broad City" Co-Star Abbi Jacobson

What do Michelle Obama, Anna Wintour and Michael Jordan carry in their bags? Abbi Jacobson imagines the things you might find in her new illustrated book, "Carry This Book." We talk to the "Broad City" co-star about what you can learn from the contents of bags—and her success creating and starring in the hit Comedy Central show.

WAMU 88.5

New Approaches To Tackling Local Youth Hunger

The First Lady of Virginia Dorothy McAuliffe and other regional leaders are exploring new, innovative ways to combat local food insecurity.


Some Machines Are Flipping Votes But That Doesn't Mean They're Rigged

As early voting starts, there are scattered reports of touchscreen voting machines "flipping" votes from one candidates to another. But old voting machines, not a "rigged" election is likely blame.

Social Media Company Twitter Struggles Financially

Steve Inskeep talks to Emily Bell, director for the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at the Columbia Journalism School, about the challenges Twitter faces.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.