Community remembers teen killed in Clark Lane crash
COLUMBIA - Friends and family gathered Wednesday evening to remember the life of 17-year-old Claudine Nibigira.
The Battle High School student was walking home from her job at McDonald's when she was hit and killed by a car on Clark Lane on September 16.
Noella Bucumi remembered her oldest sister as fun-loving, intelligent and always happy.
"Claudine loved laughing and smiling, like if you were ever sad, having a bad moment, she would always make you happy," Bucumi said.
Nibigira came to the U.S. from Tanzania in 2009. She was looking forward to graduating early to attend cosmetology school.
"She loved to dress up; she loved style. She loved doing her hair, doing other people's hair," said her friend Deborah Muberaruto.
The remembrance ceremony was organized to give students a chance to remember Claudine and express their grief in a different context than a funeral, according to Granny House Director Pamela Ingram.
Nibigira frequented Granny's House, a non-profit ministry with after-school programming for students, since moving to Columbia with her 14 brothers and sisters.
"We have always said for years that we are like a family, but never in my wildest dreams did I think we would be a family like this, a family that would grieve together," Ingram said.
Wednesday's event included a photo slideshow of Nibigira, a time to share memories and creating a wall of remembrance with canvases.
"It was just very special just to hear everyone's last moments, last words, last kisses [with Claudia], but it was very emotional for me. I love that everyone had a different moment with her, but every moment was happy; every moment was joyful," Muberaruto said.
The formal funeral for Nibigira will be held Sunday, September 29 at Christian Fellowship Church.