In her coffin, Casha'e Rivers is a sleeping angel in a party dress.
Her fingers, nails perfectly painted, hold a pink corduroy purse decorated with a ballerina. A dollar bill, a shiny quarter, and a transit pass are tucked inside because the kindergartner loved buses and subways, and everyone says she was so generous that if Casha'e had a dollar - and you asked - she'd give you at least 25 cents.
Casha'e was killed Sunday morning, Sept. 24, in Strawberry Mansion when, according to police, a convicted drug felon fired into the car her mother was driving because he thought it was tailing him. One bullet entered her heart as she sat in the back next to her year-old brother.
Her mother, Alisha Corley, talked fast and furious that night, as if the telling might keep her sane:
I didn't know at first I'm speeding off to get away from the gunshots... the other kids said hey she's bleeding they just started screaming OK OK calm down I'm still going didn't stop or nothing no streets no stop signs rear-ended a car and I'm haul-assing some more... then I'm at the fire station, "My daughter was shot!"
In a dangerous world, Casha'e Rivers blossomed. The little girl was so smart, says Corley, that "I didn't have to potty-train her. At two, she said, 'Mom, I want some panties,' and that was it." School, which she attended for a week before she died, delighted her.
The only thing that seemed to scare Casha'e - born to a teen mother and raised in North Philadelphia while her father served time on a drug charge - was seeing a walking, talking Mickey Mouse at Disney World last year.
At her funeral, Charles A. Rivers Jr. - granted a furlough to attend his daughter's funeral - remembers the way Casha'e would say goodbye every time she visited him in prison.
"She always had to be the last one to hug me," he says. "It was like she was sending me back in with her protection."
Contact April Saul at 215-854-2872 or firstname.lastname@example.org.