Three little girls made plans for the future. They built sandcastles, they danced to pop songs, they swam, they laughed, they swore to be roommates in college.
Two of the girls, now 10, stood Sunday on a stage in Tucson and told a crowd of hundreds, many weeping, about their friend. Christina-Taylor Green, a 9-year-old born on Sept. 11, 2001, aspired to dance with Beyonce, to be the first woman in Major League Baseball and one day be elected president of the United States.
"She wasn't afraid of boys or sports or anything," Serenity Hammrich said, wearing a black dress and standing with Jamie Stone on a stage in the University of Arizona. "When she made student council, I was so happy for her. She believed it was important to help others to try to make a difference in the school and to put others first."
Christina died a year ago Sunday, one of six people killed in a deadly shooting rampage targeting U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Wearing sparkly tennis shoes, blue sapphire earrings, and skinny jeans, she had questions ready about pollution and the Gulf oil spill that she never got a chance to ask.
"I want everyone to understand that Christina was one in a million. She was my best friend," Serenity said.
Serenity said that she met Christina the first day of school in first grade and that she was scared. She stared at Christina on the playground because they looked just like each other, except Christina was taller.
"I was still staring at her when she walked up to me and said, `Hi, do you want to be friends?'" Serenity said.
Jamie said she and Christina became friends when Christina walked up to her on the bus and asked to sit with her.
Serenity said that she was afraid to play kickball because she didn't think she was any good and thought the boys would tease her, but that Christina encouraged her to go for it.
"I was really sad when we lost Christina," Serenity said. "I know she is in heaven watching me now saying, `Serenity, don't cry. I'm doing fine, really. I want you to stay strong and continue with your life.'"
Jamie said she knows Christina would want those she loved to be happy even though she's gone.
"I know Christina is watching me and I know she is still here with me. I know she misses being with everyone she loved."
Jamie said her favorite memory of Christina is from June 2009, when they spent a beautiful day together in Sabino Canyon outside of Tucson.
"Christina and I laughed and swam all day and talked about our futures together. She told me, `You're not my best friend because you are my sister," Jamie said.
Serenity added that even if they're not physically together the three girls will be "best friends for eternity."