Thousands of mourners overflowed from a downtown church Saturday as Amber Hagerman was eulogized as “a child of the nation,” whose abduction and murder touched millions.
The service at First United Methodist Church came a week after the 9-year-old girl was grabbed, screaming, from her bicycle. Her nude body was found in a creek late Wednesday, her throat cut. No arrests have been made.
Amber is “survived by a nation stunned and saddened and enraged that once again such unspeakable and fiendish evil has stricken one of our children,” said the Rev. Ann Stevens, associate pastor of the First United Methodist Church of Arlington.
About 2,500 people crowded into the church’s main sanctuary and an auxiliary chapel; police had to block off the street in front of the church.
“I feel anger for whoever did it,” said Josie Mendoza of Grand Prairie.
“I have a grandbaby, 4 years old, and she’s the kind of child who would open the door to anybody,” Mendoza said.
President Clinton called Amber’s parents to offer his condolences.
Thousands of people had attended a six-hour wake at a funeral home, filing slowly past her blue casket surrounded by pink floral sprays.
Stevens, in her eulogy, said Amber’s death leaves behind “fellow students at an elementary school who are now bewildered and frightened by what they see and hear. She is survived by a neighborhood thrust into a time of wondering and searching and crying.”
About 750 people attended gravesite rites that followed at an Arlington cemetery. Amber was buried alongside about 30 other children in an area of the cemetery called Babyland, which overlooks a small body of water.
Among the flowers surrounding Amber’s casket were single blooms brought by children.
Well-wishers also had been sending teddy bears since Amber’s abduction Jan. 13. She favored teddy bears among her toys.
Some of the bears, along with other mementos, were included in Amber’s casket. Other teddy bears were to be given to a police department charity.