ON ANY other day, they might be described as resplendent: Mother and baby dressed in coordinating white satin-and-tulle dresses, with matching tiaras and shiny gold shoes.
But yesterday, the sight of LaToya Smith and her 11-month-old daughter, Rimanee Camp, was simultaneously horrifying and senseless: They lay together in a white casket, baby "Nee-Nee" resting in the crook of her mother's left arm.
A thousand mourners packed a Bala Cynwyd church to bid farewell to Smith and her baby, nine days after a car being driven by a young man who was fleeing police jumped the curb and mowed down the pair and two other little girls down as the four frolicked on a Feltonville sidewalk.
They were the last of the "3rd Street Angels" to be laid to rest; funeral services for Gina Marie Rosario, 7, and Aaliyah Griffin, 6, were held earlier this week. Relatives from those families stood alongside Smith and Rimanee's mourners at the United Methodist Church of Bala Cynwyd yesterday, bonding over an unfathomable grief.
"It's just too overwhelming," Aarie Anderson, a paternal great-aunt to Rimanee Camp, said as she took a moment to stand outside the church during the service. Rimanee's father, Brandon Camp, is her nephew.
"It's one thing to hear about this happening, but to see them laying there in the casket together, it's just too much," she said.
White and gold was the theme of the day, coloring everything from the balloons and flowers at the altar to the clothing of many mourners. The obituary program said those were LaToya Smith's favorite colors.
A woman wearing a gold blouse and white pants walked out of church after an emotional praise-dance performance by a troupe of dancers from the New Hope Revival Center, of which LaToya Smith had been a member.
The woman said only that she was Smith's cousin. Then her eyes welled up with tears and she walked away.
Bishop Harold Faust, pastor of New Hope, gave the eulogy. He said he would always remember LaToya and her baby, telling the mourners about the first time LaToya introduced herself to him.
"She said, 'Do you know who I am? My name is LaToya Smith, like LaToya Jackson. And I can sing and dance and praise the Lord!' " Faust told the crowd.
During his eulogy, Faust reminded many of the mourners that the deaths of a mother and daughter who were so young may be a message from God that their remaining friends and relatives may need to think about getting their lives in order.
"She was only 22 years old," he said of LaToya. "God is trying to give us a sign."
Faust then called on young people in particular to turn their lives over to Jesus. At first, only one young woman in a white dress who appeared to be in her 20s came forward. Then two or three others went to the front. Then young people in groups of two or three and four or five gathered in front of the church just before the casket to say they would turn their lives over to God. Bishop Faust later said more than 60 people had pledged to follow God.
Photos of happier times flashed on a TV screen at the front of the church: Smith posing with a bride on her wedding day; a wide-eyed Rimanee in a red shirt proclaiming her to be "High Maintenance"; Smith in a graduation cap and gown; Rimanee relaxing in her stroller, pacifier pursed between her lips.
Mayor Nutter hugged relatives in the front pew before greeting mourners at the start of the service and offering a message of comfort and hope.
In his remarks at the service, he said Philadelphia was "a city in pain" at the horrific loss of the young mother and three small children by the "senseless, unexplainable and unforgivable" actions of the men who plowed their car into the group.
"We know that those involved will get their justice in the proper time," Nutter said.