Children and adults clasped flickering candles last night on a tree-lined, one-way street in Northeast Washington and joined in a heartfelt rendition of "Happy Birthday."
It was Janice Short's 37th birthday. Her three daughters were there. So were dozens of others. She was not.
Short was fatally shot Saturday, down the block from her mother's house and right in front of the spot in the 300 block of Seaton Place NE where about 70 people gathered last night for a candlelight vigil. They paid their respects and wondered aloud how tragedy befell such a loving, boisterous woman and mother.
"She was a kind person, always willing to give anyone her last" of anything, said April Baugham, a friend. "She was a wonderful mother. She loved her kids. They were so close."
According to police and friends, Short, who lived in Southeast Washington, was visiting her mother Saturday to plan a birthday dinner for Sunday night.
About 4:40 p.m., she was outside, chatting in front of a vacant apartment building with a couple of men she knew from the neighborhood, when neighbors heard gunfire.
Short was shot and killed. The two men, who police said may have been the intended targets, were shot and wounded. No one has been arrested, police said last night.
The vigil was held in front of the brick wall where Short was gunned down, near a tree adorned with pink, yellow and multicolored stuffed animals and birthday balloons in Short's honor. Some balloons were inscribed with the words "thinking of you."
Pastors spoke. So did a neighbor.
There was anger. And hope dosed with words of faith and the need to put down the guns and register to vote, to make positive changes and save the next generation from the kind of violence that ended Short's life.
Short's daughters stood there -- the eldest, Tameca, teary-eyed, telling the camera crews afterward that she was going to miss her mother very, very much.
Janice Short, a stay-at-home mom, was one of 140 people slain in the District this year.
She was fun, kind and humble, friends and family said. She loved "oldies but goodies" music, including Sam Cooke and Otis Redding.
On Sept. 11, 2001, friends said, Short was working on the cleaning crew at the Pentagon when a plane hijacked by terrorists slammed into the building. She was not in the section of the building that was struck directly, and she escaped harm, her friends said.
Short struggled to raise her three daughters, 19, 13 and 8, in Southeast Washington. She took the children to family events, threw them birthday parties and took them to amusement parks.
Two years ago, she joined a church in Northeast. She married last month, according to friends and relatives.
For some, last night's gathering brought out painful memories. Juanita Eskew, a cousin of Short's, said her 20-year-old son was murdered in 1988 in Northeast Washington.
"I hope they catch" Short's killer, Eskew said. "It took me six years and three trials to catch the one who killed my son."
Funeral services are planned for Saturday morning at First New Hope Baptist Church, 1818 Third St. NE.