Thousands of fans and friends gathered at the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Georgia, Thursday morning (May 2) to say goodbye to flamboyant TLC singer/rapper Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes.
Close to 10,000 mourners including Lopes' former TLC-mates Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins and Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas made the trip to the Atlanta suburb for Thursday's funeral service for Lopes, who was killed in a car accident in Honduras last week at the age of 30 (see "Lisa 'Left Eye' Lopes Killed In Car Accident"). Usher, Arista Records CEO L.A. Reid, Janet Jackson, Jermaine Dupri, Babyface, Whitney Houston, Bobby Brown, Timbaland, Mack 10, Da Brat, Raphael Saadiq and Monica were also among those paying their respects at the two-hour service.
Fans began lining up outside the church as early as six hours before the doors opened at 10:30 a.m. for the ceremony. Some traveled hundreds of miles from across the U.S., clutching CDs, posters and hand-painted portraits of the late artist. Their enthusiasm almost overwhelmed the church, as the once-orderly line turned into a crowd when the doors were opened. However, all made their way into the church for the start of the service.
"I consider myself TLC's #1 fan and if my mom wouldn't have brought me up here, I'd go find a way to get up here," said Brandon, who made the pilgrimage from Florida for the service.
"It really saddened me, so I decided to get something in memory of her that I wouldn't regret doing," Jason of Hartford, Connecticut, said of the Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes tattoo he flashed on his arm outside the church. "I did it just to remember her. She was a really nice person ... very creative and different from everybody else out there. I did it the day after her death."
Lopes was remembered as much for her music as for the person behind it on Thursday, with fans and friends alike recalling a warm, caring and giving person.
"There was such a wonderful person inside of Lisa," said Bob Goldstone, a publicist who worked with TLC. "As the other members of TLC said, she would give the shirt off her back to help somebody and often did. That's what I think they've all been so touched by. People actually appreciated that and have come out to pay their respects."
The ceremony opened with a video montage of Lopes, followed by words from Dekalb County CEO Vernon Jones, L.A. Reid, Lopes' aunt Pamela Young, and her brother Ronald Lopes. R&B duo Mary Mary and members of Egypt, a group that Lopes had been mentoring, performed in honor of Lopes. Bishop Eddie Long presided over the ceremony, which paid tribute to both Lopes the artist and Lopes the humanitarian.
The singer's mother, Wanda Lopes, provided the service's most emotionally charged moment, reciting a poem that she had written for her daughter before her death. Bernice King, daughter of late civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., also struck a chord during her statements about the late singer's spirit.
Following the service, Lopes' family and friends headed to an undisclosed site where the singer will be interred in a private ceremony.
Thursday's public funeral comes one day after family and friends paid their respects during a private ceremony held at a different location in the Atlanta area.
Lopes was killed last Thursday when the SUV she was driving flipped over and she suffered fatal head trauma. Eight others were in the vehicle with her, but none of the other passengers suffered potentially fatal injuries.
For complete coverage on the Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes tragedy, see Remembering Left Eye: The Lisa Lopes Reports.
[This story was updated at 5:01 P.M. EST on 05.02.02.]