TUCSON, Ariz. — The casket for Christina Taylor Green seemed too small to hold the grief and despair of the 2,000 mourners who packed into St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church on Thursday to say goodbye to the 9-year-old girl whose life began and ended with two of the nation's most soul-searching moments.
Reminders of the innocence of the bubbly girl born on Sept. 11, 2001 were everywhere: A group of little girls dressed in frilly dresses and white tights craned to see as their friend's casket rolled into the church and Christina's best friend sneaked them a wave from her place in the processional line.
Outside the church, more little girls — and hundreds of other people — wearing white and waving American flags lined both sides of the street for more than a quarter-mile to show their support. Hundreds of motorcycle riders from all over stood guard and more than a dozen residents were dressed as angels.
Before the service, Christina's family and closest friends gathered under the enormous American flag recovered from Ground Zero and paused for a moment of silence, holding hands and crying. White-gloved state troopers escorted family and dignitaries into the church as a choir sang hymns.Video: Tucson mourns as 9-year-old victim buried (on this page)
"She would want to say to us today, 'Enjoy life,'" said Bishop Gerald Kicanas, who presided over the funeral. "She would want to say to us today, 'God has loved me so much. He has put his hand on me and prepared a place for me.'"
"Her time to be born was Sept. 11, 2001," he said. "Her time to die was the tragic day, Jan. 8, 2011, just nine years old she was. But she has found her dwelling place in God's mansion. She went home."
As Christina's family grieved, new developments emerged in the case when a man walking his dog found a black bag containing ammunition that authorities believe was discarded by the suspected gunman, 22-year-old Jared Loughner.
At the church, the focus was on the little girl who was an avid swimmer and dancer, a budding politician and the only girl on her Little League team. Mounds of flowers — pink roses and wreaths — surrounded the closed casket and a large photo of Christina and her older brother, 11-year-old Dallas, stood at the entrance to the church.
Her father, John Green, recalled in an emotional eulogy how his daughter used to pick blueberries, loved snorkeling and played for hours with her cousins and brother behind the house, directing the activities.Story: Doctor 'actually confident' of Giffords' recovery
He recalled how once, upon returning from a two-week trip, he found his daughter and his wife dancing in the hallway, full of life and happiness.
"Christina Taylor Green, I can't tell you how much we all miss you," her father said, according to the Arizona Daily Star. "I think you have affected the whole country."
Dante Mitchell, 8, was one of Christina's classmates who came to say goodbye and try to make sense of losing a friend he chased on the playground and battled with in break-dancing contests. He's been sad since the shooting, his mother said, and asked to bring a giant teddy bear to Christina's funeral because she loved animals.
"This was kind of a closure for him. He was in the car coming here saying he was feeling sad about it," said Leshan Mitchell, as she and her son left the service. "He said, 'Mom, I'm feeling really sad now' and I said, 'People who didn't know her are feeling sad, too, and it's OK to cry and it's OK to be angry."
Angie Yrigoyen, who knew Christina through her 11-year-old grandson Dominic, was still emotional as she left the church and said the funeral captured the little girl's spirit in a way that moved her profoundly.Story: How Judy Clarke defends the despised
"She was like a grown-up in a child's body," said Yrigoyen, 77, as she broke into tears. "I saw her as a very happy child. I hope the one thing that she brings to our city, our state and country is peace."
Billy Joel's "Lullaby," which begins "Goodnight, my angel, time to close your eyes," was performed at the end, according to people who attended.
"We've all been affected in Tucson," said Maggie Parisoff, 35, a crisis counselor roving through the crowd outside the church to offer help to anyone in need.
Christina's funeral will be followed on Friday by that of federal Judge John Roll, who was gunned down alongside her after he called in at the "Congress on the corner" event to see Giffords, who was a friend.
In related developments Thursday:
Ammunition bag: An 18-year-old found the bag on Thursday morning in a neighborhood near where the suspect lives, Chief Rick Kastigar with the Pima County Sheriff's Office said.Interactive: Tragedy in Tucson: The shooting victims (on this page)
The found bag is believed to be the black bag that Randy Loughner described his son, Jared, carrying the morning of the shooting, the Pima County Sheriff's office said in a statement. The bag was handed over to the FBI for further analysis.
The bag turned out to be a diaper bag that looked like a backpack and contained 9mm ammunition, authorities said.
McCains visit: Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and his wife, Cindy, attended Christina's funeral and met with her family privately after the service, NBC News reported. Earlier the couple visited University Medical Center to meet with shooting victims and their families, including Giffords astronaut husband, Mark Kelly, and with hospital workers.Interactive: Giffords' shooting (on this page)
New details emerge: Loughner, authorities said, in the hours before the shooting hustled to Walmart twice, was caught by police running a red light but was let go with a warning, and later grabbed a black bag from the trunk of a family car before fleeing into the desert on foot with his suspicious father giving chase. Eventually, he took a cab to the grocery store where he opened fire on Giffords and a line of people waiting to speak to her. Authorities said Thursday that Loughner was also carrying a knife but didn't use it.Story: Report: Loughner lost it after teen break-up
Breakup: Kelsey Hawkes said Thursday on CBS' "The Early Show" that when she dated Loughner six years ago when they were both in high school, he showed no violent tendencies.
"Back then he was completely different of a person. Very caring, very sweet, a gentle, kind, you know, a little bit quiet. But altogether a pretty great guy," she said.
Crime scene cleanup: At the Safeway store parking lot, crews began cleaning up the area after the FBI told local authorities the agency had completed its investigation there, NBC News reported. Crime scene tape is expected to be removed and all the evidence trucks from the FBI will move out.
It was unclear when the Safeway store would definitely reopen, the sheriff's department said, but the store will remained closed Thursday and Friday with a possible Saturday opening.
NASA backup: The space agency said in the event Giffords' husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, could not fulfill his mission while his wife undergoes treatment for injuries sustained in the massacre, veteran astronaut Rick Sturchow will serve as a backup commander during Kelly's absence, NBC News reported. Kelly was due to command the shuttle Endeavour for a planned April 19 launch.Story: Obama to Americans: 'We can be better'
"I recommended to my management that we take steps now to prepare to complete the mission in my absence, if necessary," Kelly said. "I am very hopeful that I will be in a position to rejoin my crew to finish our training."
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Suspect's family suffering: Randy Loughner's sister, Jared Loughner's aunt, on Thursday told the Arizona Republic that her family also is a victim and suffering after Saturday's attack.
Mary Mitchell told the newspaper she feels sorry for the victims, but "I also feel sorry for my brother and sister-in-law. They have to live with this the rest of their lives."
She said the Loughners feel as if they've lost a son. "They adored their son. They did their best to raise their son, the best they could do," she told the paper. "We need to quit talking about all the politics. It's disrespectful."
NBC News, the Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.