Dejah Joyner's friends and relatives describe a girl with a distinctive laugh who always seems ready to burst into song or dance.
The 12-year-old, known by friends and relatives for her energy and musicality, has clung to life in a hospital since a bullet pierced a front window of her Hempstead Village home and struck her head Friday afternoon.
Those close to her said her happiness is infectious. Dejah's cousin, Jade Floyd, 13, of Uniondale, recalled nights when the two would sing and dance to Drake and Rihanna.
"She was a happy little girl," Jade said of her cousin. "We used to have so much fun. She would sleep over here. I'd sleep over there. We'd play together, listen to music and sang. We talked about everything."
Dejah, an aspiring dancer, is also a Girl Scout and often seen at church with her family on Sundays, relatives and churchgoers said.
Dejah's uncle, Kenny Willis, 52, of Uniondale, said she celebrated her birthday just last week with a party at the home where she was shot. He described his niece as "fun loving, outgoing, full of life."
Lorena Martinez, 12, knows her as the friendly girl whose family moved across the street about four years ago. They became friends and would often eat lunch together at Alverta B. Gray Schultz Middle School, she said.
"We talk about school and cheerleading, because she wants to join," Martinez said. "I'm a cheerleader and she wants me to teach her."
Just Wednesday, Lorena said, Dejah came over to learn cheerleading moves. On Friday, Lorena watched as paramedics wheeled her friend out of her house on a stretcher. She said she "got really scared and sad and started shaking a lot."
At Union Baptist Church in Hempstead, several members said they knew Dejah's family and said a prayer for her in church Saturday morning.
"She is truly an angel," said one churchgoer, Vanessa Woodby, of Hempstead. "Her laugh is something I will always cherish. Lot of joy in that little girl."