Hundreds of fans jammed the street outside a Manhattan funeral home Friday to watch a glass-paneled horse-drawn carriage travel four blocks to deliver the casket carrying the singer's body to St. Ignatius Loyola Roman Catholic Church on the Upper East Side for an invitation-only service for friends and family.
The 22-year-old singer-actress was killed instantly last Saturday when her plane crashed in the Bahamas, where she had been shooting a music video.
Among the 1,200 mourners in attendance: Aaliyah's aunt Gladys Knight, rap mogul Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, Usher, Busta Rhymes, Lil' Kim, Jay-Z, Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott, Timbaland, Mya, Mike Tyson and film producer Joel Silver, who was bankrolling Aaliyah's next film project, The Matrix Reloaded.
Ten pallbearers brought the singer's ivory casket into the church, while Aaliyah's mother, Diane, her brother, Rashad, and Romeo Must Die costar Delroy Lindo followed behind.
After the service, Aaliyah's mother stood beside her daughter's casket in tears and released a single white dove into the sky, which was quickly followed by the release of another 21 doves--each representing a year in the singer's life.
While family and friends mourned in the closed ceremony uptown, thousands more fans gathered at Cipriani's 42nd Street, a midtown restaurant, where a public memorial was being held all day Friday.
"She was a lovely lady and an inspiration. She'll be greatly missed," said Lynette Peterson, 26, who came to the memorial with a group of friends.
Fans lined up early Friday morning to get the chance to shuffle past a large picture of Aaliyah surrounded by several oversized floral arrangements and video screens playing a continuous loop of the singer's videos and performances.
"She touched so many lives through her music. I felt I owed it to her to pay my respects," said 29-year-old Marcus Fuller, who brought his 2-year-old daughter.
Fans signed a guest book alongside a pink teddy bear, some printing their names and addresses, while others expressed their own heartache and offered condolences to the family over their loss.
"You're an angel now. You'll be in our hearts forever," one entry read. "May God bless you and your family."
Meanwhile, investigators are still focusing on the cause of the crash, with more evidence pointing toward overloading.
Aviation officials report that the twin-engine Cessna model 402B was designed to carry only six to eight people, including the pilot, but there were nine people aboard when the aircraft went down seconds after takeoff.
The Cessna model is authorized to carry 6,300 pounds. But with luggage and fuel, investigators estimate the doomed plane's weight at 5,500 pounds--leaving just 800 pounds for the nine passengers (Aaliyah's bodyguard alone reportedly tipped the scales at 300 pounds).
The report follows revelations that the pilot was not licensed to fly the Cessna and was sentenced to probation on crack cocaine charges in Florida days before the crash.