Two days before she was killed, 6-year-old Aaliyah Griffin was prancing around her house in her mother's high heels, exclaiming, "Mommy, soon I'm going to fit in your shoes."
"She was an entertainer," Aaliyah's uncle, Frederick Brown-Griffin, said yesterday, smiling as he fondly remembered his niece at her funeral service.
"She was a bright young girl, funny, and with a good sense of humor," he said in the lobby of the Deliverance Evangelistic Church, on Lehigh Avenue near 20th Street, in North Philadelphia.
Affectionately nicknamed "Pooka" by her mother, Aaliyah was one of three little girls who were killed when a driver fleeing police jumped a curb in Feltonville last week and plowed into a crowd of people who were outside enjoying a balmy, late-spring evening.
Gina Marie Rosario, 7, and Remedy Smith, 11 months, were the two other girls. Remedy's mother, LaToya, 22, also was struck, and died the next day.
Gina Marie's viewing is tonight, with another viewing before funeral services tomorrow. Services for Remedy and LaToya Smith will be held Friday.
But yesterday, the focus was on Aaliyah, a little girl who loved school and the Disney Channel's "Hannah Montana," and playing the "Shrek" video game on her family's Nintendo Game Cube system.
She lay angelic in her ivory-colored coffin, dressed in a pale pink tulle dress, a white sweater, white patent leather mary-jane shoes and white gloves with a rhinestone cross on each wrist.
Instead of a halo, she wore a tiara atop her thin, black braids that were fastened with white barrettes.
"You couldn't be around her for more than five minutes and not have a smile on your face," Brown-Griffin said.
Next to her casket, her nickname was spelled out in flowers of various shades of pink and yellow.
"She stood out because of how sweet she was," said Norma McAllister, Aaliyah's pre-school teacher at the Hilton Street Head Start program, in Kensington.
"She was kind-hearted and just had a good spirit about her," McAllister said.
Police say that Donta Cradock, 18, was the driver who crashed a borrowed silver Pontiac last Wednesday into the group on 3rd Street near Annsbury.
Cradock has not been arraigned on murder and related offenses because he remained in critical condition yesterday at Albert Einstein Medical Center, police said.
Ivan Rodriguez, 20, who has been charged with murder and related offenses in the case, had been in Cradock's car before the crash when the two allegedly decided to hijack a motorcycle, setting off the series of events that led to the tragedy.
Yesterday, pastor Gregory Boykin, acknowledging the grief of Aaliyah's family, told the congregation not to be angry and not to ask why tragedy struck the sweet little girl.
"Because, yes, she was Momma's little helper, but she needed to be helpful somewhere else," Boykin said.
"And, yes, she was the entertainer, one who could do it all, but just after 6 years, four months, and two days, our angel needed to entertain in another place." *