NORTH LAWNDALE — Ariana Powell arrived in Chicago two weeks ago from Minnesota and was looking forward to finally meeting her half-sister, Shaneda Lawrence, whom she had connected with for the first time on Facebook last year.
But before the two could meet in person, 30-year-old Lawrence was gunned down Saturday while attending a memorial service for a cousin who died of cancer at 43. That service was at an Englewood park named in honor of another of Lawrence's relatives who died tragically, 11-year-old Ryan Harris.
"It's so sad because the way I had to meet my sister in person was in a casket," Powell, 23, said between tears Monday.
Lawrence, who is one of five people shot and killed over the weekend, is the cousin of Ryan, who was raped and killed in Englewood in a case that made national headlines in 1998. Two boys, ages 7 and 8, initially were charged with the murder, but the charges were dropped, and sex offender Floyd Durr eventually was sentenced to life in prison for the crime.
Lawrence was at Ryan Harris Memorial Park at 6781 S. Lowe Ave. Saturday for her cousin Sheila Everett's memorial service. Lawrence, who had a 14-year-old son, recently had given up her job as a certified nursing assistant to take care of Everett full time, according to Lawrence's mother, Regina.
Regina Lawrence said she woke up Saturday morning and saw her daughter getting ready for the memorial, a service her daughter had planned.
But as mourners attended a gathering commonly known as a "repast" afterward at the park, someone "came off the railroad tracks and just started shooting," her mother said.
"All the family had gathered at the park to celebrate. Everything was nice and smooth," she said.
Police said multiple shooters fired into a crowd of about 100 mourners, striking Shaneda Lawrence in the head and wounding at least two others. No one has been arrested in connection with the case, police said Monday night.
"It doesn't seem real right now," said Regina Lawrence, who didn't attend the service. "I was expecting to see my daughter come back home."
Powell and other family members who gathered at Regina Lawrence's West Side home Monday described Shaneda as an "independent," "fun-loving" and a "hard-working" mother who cared for her family and "always gave good advice."
Her aunt Jacqueline Lawrence said the timing was difficult to accept: "Everybody is in shock right now. And in the midst of the repast we lost another."
Powell had never met her half-sister — the two have the same father but different mother, but the two had become close.
"We had been catching up on all the time we never had together — it was like we knew each other already," she said.
After Powell moved back to the city to be closer to family, the women had been planning to meet soon.
"She was my big sister," Powell said. "She was going to cook for me, I was going to do her hair."
Although she knew about Chicago's crime problem, she was still in shock.
"I already know how it is here," she said. "It's nothing to get used to."
But despite the tragedies that have struck her family, Regina Lawrence said that an annual remembrance for Ryan Harris will continue this year to mark the 15th anniversary of the girl's death on July 28, 1998.
"There are wounds, but it's still going happen. It's for the community," she said. "This is life — we can't stop it."