Fans, celebrities gather for Aaliyah's Cinderella funeral for

Fans, celebrities gather for Aaliyah's Cinderella funeral for

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NEW YORK — Aaliyah Dana Haughton's life seemed like a fairy tale: She was beautiful, talented, and was building a successful career in music and film.

So fans found it fitting that Aaliyah, who died in a plane crash last Saturday, received a fairy-tale send-off: Her casket was carried through the street Friday in a glass-paneled carriage drawn by two cream-colored horses.

After the funeral, 22 white doves — one for each year of her life — were released into the sky.

"I think that's a very nice way to send her to heaven," said Darren Murray, 31, one of hundreds of fans who stood behind police barricades to watch Aaliyah's funeral procession outside of St. Ignatius Loyola Roman Catholic Church on Manhattan's Upper East Side.

Murray held a sign that read, "Your love and your music will always live in our hearts."

Aaliyah and eight other people were killed when a private plane carrying them crashed shortly after it left the Bahamas. She had been in the Bahamas working on a video for her new self-titled album, released last month. The crash is under investigation.

Fans of all ages began gathering near the church on Thursday night; by the time the funeral began, at 10 a.m., about 1,000 people had crowded into a two-block radius, hoping to get a glimpse of Aaliyah's coffin.

India Collins, from Manhattan, came after she got off work Thursday at 10:30 p.m.

"I just wanted to see her for the last time, and I love her," she said. "Whatever I can see of her, last memories, that's what brought me here."

The funeral Mass itself was private. Among the celebrities attending were Gladys Knight, who was married to Aaliyah's uncle; rapper Jay-Z; her musical collaborators Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott and Timbaland; Mike Tyson; Sean "P. Diddy" Combs; singers Usher and Mya; "Matrix" producer Joel Silver; Hype Williams, who directed Aaliyah's last video; and actor Delroy Lindo, who played Aaliyah's father in her movie debut, "Romeo Must Die."

Lindo was among about 100 mourners, including Aaliyah's mother and brother, who walked behind the coffin as it made its way from Frank E. Campbell's funeral home to the church, about three blocks away. Campbell's is known for celebrity funerals, from Judy Garland and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis to John Lennon and rapper Christopher Wallace, better known as the Notorious B.I.G.

During the hour-long service, fans outside sang some of Aaliyah's songs: At one point, a sports utility vehicle drove down the block blasting her current hit, "We Need a Resolution."

By the time the 10 pallbearers carried the casket out of the church, fans were in the midst of their own mini-concert: They serenaded her casket with the title track to her second album, "One In A Million," singing, "Aaliyah, you're one in a million!"

Just after the casket was loaded into a black hearse, Aaliyah's tearful mother, Diane, opened a white box trimmed with lace: A single dove was released, and she broke down in tears again.

Then the other 21 doves were released. Knight was visibly shaken, and others walked over to hug Aaliyah's mother.

"I thought it was beautiful and fit for a princess, and I just broke down and started crying," said fan April Debourg, 32, of Harlem. "I feel sorry for her mom."

Debourg had written a poem entitled "Most Exalted One" — the meaning of Aaliyah's name — and was wearing a T-shirt bearing Aaliyah's image and the date of her death. "She just touched me," she said. "I love her music, I love her style."

After the procession, fans lingered, reminiscing.

Patricia Bailey, a Maryland resident, was vacationing in Long Island but took time out to come to the funeral. "She was an asset to so many young people, and older (people) as well," said the 46-year-old.

"I haven't slept all night," said Nima Cohran, 21. "I was at home, but I couldn't go to sleep, and I haven't really slept since it happened. I've been taping everything on the news … I want to get every piece of her."

A public memorial service at a midtown restaurant Friday was to include a continuous loop of Aaliyah's videos, performances and music.

On the Net:

Aaliyah: http://www.aaliyah2001.com

Virgin Records: http://www.virginrecords.com

— Arizona Daily Sun

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