Fans, Artists Pay Last Respects To Aaliyah

Jay-Z, P. Diddy, Timbaland among mourners at New York funeral, while fans congregate outside.

NEW YORK — The inscription at the bottom of Aaliyah’s picture at a memorial here on Friday may have best described her years of touching people’s lives: “We Were Given a Queen, We Were Given an Angel.”

Even in the afterlife, Aaliyah remains the epitome of class and grace. Her white casket was transported Friday morning (August 31) from Campbell Funeral Home to St. Ignatius Church — where her funeral was held — in a white carriage pulled by two white horses. Dozens of white and pink roses lay on the top of the carriage. Her boyfriend, Damon Dash, and one of her “Romeo Must Die” co-stars, Delroy Lindo, were among the loved ones who walked the streets behind the carriage en route to the private service.

Fans converged at the funeral home as early as 6:30 a.m. to pay their respects to the singer and actress, who was killed in a plane crash with eight others six days earlier in the Bahamas (see “Report Shows Aaliyah’s Plane Was Overloaded” ). They wrote messages in the home’s condolence books and followed the procession. Police estimated 1,000 fans were there.

“[I came] because of Aaliyah’s spirit,” said Walter Green, who was in the crowd that walked four blocks from the funeral home to the funeral on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. “I met her twice, she’s the most wonderful person. She touched so many people worldwide.”

“She touched my life the way no other did,” said Karolyn Parchment, who was joined by her teenage daughter Natasha. “I listened to her songs. They were positive. She was a role model and I wanted [my daughter] to look up to her.”

When the procession reached the church, where Jay-Z, P. Diddy, Busta Rhymes, and Timbaland were among the mourners, they were greeted by more fans.

One glassy-eyed girl, who looked no older than 14, held up a giant piece of cardboard with lyrics to Aaliyah songs written on it. Another girl wore a pair of jeans with the star’s name written multiple times on them. Further down the block, a group of kids were draped in T-shirts that read, “May God Give Her Soul Eternal Peace.”

“I have mad love for Aaliyah,” said Nichelle Broadway, whose T-shirt was embroidered with a photograph of Aaliyah she had taken at a record-store appearance in July. “She was so nice. I’ve been crying all week. I’m trying to hold it in now. I just can’t believe it.”

While some wept, others talked among themselves about Aaliyah’s contributions, keeping their eyes focused on the goings-on at the church. Twenty-five-year-old Melvina Simone suggested that instead of wallowing in grief, fans should celebrate someone who lived a short but full life (see “Hard-Working Aaliyah Packed Hit Albums, Movies Into Short Life” ).

“This is how we gonna remember her, through her music,” the Brooklyn, New York, resident said, turning up the volume on her boom box as “We Need a Resolution” blasted through the speakers. “I’m grieving for the family and praying for their strength, but [playing the music is] just in memory of her.”

As Aaliyah’s funeral left the church, 22 white doves were released — one for each of her 22 years.

In Midtown, meanwhile, at the restaurant Cipriani’s, fans poured in for an all-day public memorial service. They left flowers, teddy bears and cards. And they prayed, and reminisced by watching highlights of Aaliyah’s career on two giant screens, singing along to songs such as “Are You That Somebody?,” “One in a Million” and “Try Again”.

Cipriani’s was flooded with white ribbons, bouquets, and candles. A shrine to Aaliyah was the centerpiece: Between the video screens was a photograph of the woman her friend and collaborator Timbaland fondly called “Baby Girl.” She looked elegant in an aqua gown. At the bottom of the picture, an inscription read:

Aaliyah Dana Haughton

January 16 1979-August 25, 2001

We Were Given a Queen

We Were Given an Angel

For a feature interview with Aaliyah, check out “Aaliyah: Been A Long Time” . For reaction from fans and other readers, see “You Tell Us: Fans Remember Aaliyah”.

For complete coverage of the Aaliyah tragedy, check out “The Aaliyah Reports.”