'Homegoing' for slain girl brings pain, hope

March 10, 1995|By Kate Shatzkin | Kate Shatzkin,Sun Staff Writer

Only a "homegoing" for a slain child could evoke such deep pain and high exultation, such keening and clapping in one room.

Some would have called yesterday's service for 12-year-old Natishia L. Moore a funeral. But Dr. Eddie A. Montgomery, co-pastor of Family Bible Church, refused to. He wanted to use language and faith to turn it all around -- to show Natishia was saved instead of dead, home instead of being buried, safe instead of burned and beaten.

Natishia's body was found Sunday morning in the basement of (( the rowhouse where she lived in the 2800 block of Rayner Ave. in West Baltimore. Police said she had been beaten, and that whoever killed her burned her body, apparently while her brother and sister slept upstairs.

Her mother, Annette Watson, was out of town when Natishia was killed, and an 18-year-old aunt was caring for the children, police said. Baltimore police spokesman Robert. W. Weinhold Jr. said detectives know of no suspects or motive in the slaying.

To a throng of mourners gathered at Family Bible on Edmondson Avenue, Dr. Montgomery urged prayer for the still-unknown killer. "We want to get angry. Not angry and ugly, but angry and busy for the Lord," he said.

The close-knit group in attendance, about 150 in all, held tightly to each other as Dr. Montgomery spoke. When he invited the "immediate family" to view the body, more than a dozen people rose.

But the parade of mourners was overcome by the sight of Natishia's body clothed in a frilly pink gown, in an open white coffin with a bouquet of pink and white carnations.

One boy's sobs and wails filled the refurbished movie theater, drowning out the singer whose sweet tones aimed to comfort. Several people collapsed from the weight of their grief, among them another of Natishia's aunts, Eurena Brown, whose prayer scarf tangled in her hair as friends helped her to a seat.

Women wearing white dresses, white gloves and white hats fanned out among the mourners. They stroked hair and rubbed shoulders, murmuring "Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Lord," over and over and over.

Annette Watson sat near her two younger children, Christopher Davidson Jr., 10, and Shanice Barrett, 6, as one of those women held her.

Then, with the closing of the coffin, came the celebration of Natishia's life -- she was compared to sunshine, and stars, and a rose too early plucked.

Debbie Copes, a sixth-grader from Frankford Intermediate School, where Natishia was a student until last October, read a poem she had written for her friend: "The last word you said to me was 'Hi.' But I didn't get a chance to say goodbye."

David Maisonet, a fifth-grader, sang "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday" in a halting voice. Several girls from the church presented Ms. Watson with Natishia's Girl Scout sash, decorated with badges earned for health and fitness, performing arts, child care and dancing.

Ms. Watson finally stood to thank those who came to remember her daughter. "If some satan attacks your child, you can grieve for a moment . . . but you know she is in a better place."

As if in agreement, mourners were on their feet by the end of the two-hour "homegoing," clapping and shouting, most of them rejoicing through their tears.

Sophia Carpenter, a classmate of Natishia's at Calverton Middle School, said she attended the service "because I wanted to remember her in a good way. My mother said, 'You need to come and see her for the last time.' "

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