ESSENCE was at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, New Jersey, on Saturday, February 18 to speak with the mourners who congregated outside of the invite-only Whitney Houston funeral. Here’s what Houston fans had to say:

“Whitney made one heck of a contribution to society and to the world; people are literally here today from all over the world. We wish the family the very best and we hope this support took away some of their pain.” – Henry W. Hamilton, principal of Whitney Houston’s elementary school in East Orange, New Jersey — which has been renamed the Whitney E. Houston Academy Elementary School in her honor

“It’s a great loss. She showed remarkable valor in the midst of some great difficulties. We’ve seen great lives, whether Michael Jackson or Elizabeth Taylor, and what the extraordinary difficulties of handling their success can do to us. But her voice was remarkable, her spirit was indomitable and she was the embodiment of the best of our religious and social traditions.” – Michael Eric Dyson

“The ceremony was everything it should have been. It was a tribute, an entourage of family, friends, loved ones. It was a good service, I’m glad I was part of it. God is good, that’s all I can say.” – Jaheim, R&B singer

“It was a celebration of her life. She touched so many people. People told stories about time that Whitney had spent with them. Alicia Keys told a story of how Whitney used to call her, text her, it was wonderful. She just meant so much, was so sweet and so giving. I thought all of it was wonderful.” – Rev. Joe Watkins, MSNBC political analyst

“I had to pay my respects to her, I’m a musician myself and I was deeply saddened by her death. She touched my heart… as a person and as a musician.” – Laticia Lewis, music teacher

“I met Whitney’s mother, Cissy, when she performed at my church at Mt. Zion AME in New Brunswick, New Jersey, in 1995. Whitney is Cissy’s daughter, and I’m a mother also. This is one funeral that I did not want to miss. Whitney’s truly loved. We were on the corner talking to all sorts of people.  Some people were waiting for hours, some people traveled for hours just to be here from all over the country.” – Mrs. Lewis

“I came from Connecticut just for this, cleared out my schedule just to be here. I wanted to come and support, and since I didn’t get to meet her personally, I wanted to at least get a chance to be around and feel the energy.” – Imani Moody, student

“Whitney Houston gave us a lot of love, maybe not directly, but she gave it to us through her music. We’re happy that she got a full life but then it’s sad that she had to leave us —  she’s a legend.” – U-knique Copeland, student

“I knew some of Whitney’s family members, but I felt a connection [to Whitney] because I love to sing. Whitney had the voice of an angel. Whitney, to me, represented happiness, especially in the ’80s and ’90s. It’s a sad day, it really is, we lost a powerhouse and I just had to be here. This is our niece, this is family to us. We loved her, we love Bobbi Kristina, we love her mother, we love Dionne — she’s just one of us, a family member we lost. We’re really gonna miss her.” – Nadine Cooper, singer