The terrible news traveled fast. Within hours of Selena's death, word had spread to her fans around the country. Stunned, they poured into the streets in San Antonio, Austin and Los Angeles, lighting candles and waving handmade posters as they sang along to recordings of her music. "She was a sister," said Azusa, Calif., fan Maria Mota, 13, her face streaked with tears at the L.A. vigil. "We felt she was one of us."

Nowhere was the pain more evident than in Corpus Christi, where heartbroken fans made a prayerful pilgrimage to the places where Selena had lived her life. In somber procession they traced the steps from her modest home to the boutique where she sold her trademark fashions to the recording studio where she'd made her music and, finally, to the Days Inn motel where the music had stopped. At every station the makeshift shrines burgeoned with flowers, posters and tear-stained letters. Traffic near her home was backed up for a mile as a slow caravan of cars lumbered by with messages reading "We Love You Selena" and "Selena 4-Ever" shoe-polished on their windows.

Overwhelmed by the outpouring, Selena's family arranged a daylong wake at the city's Bay front Plaza Convention Center on April 2. As many as 50,000 fans turned out—from places as far away as California, Canada and Colombia. They waited for hours in a line that stretched the length of seven football fields along the city's bayfront. Many laid long-stemmed white roses atop the closed, black-lacquered casket.

At her family's request, Selena's burial was private, a quiet, 12-minute service for family and friends at Corpus Christi's Seaside Memorial Park. But after her body was laid to rest near a newly planted mesquite tree, thousands of fans passed through the cemetery gates to bid their own farewell. Some brought cards and poems and flowers to lay near the simple grave marker. Others whispered prayers. "It's like she was part of the family," said Edward Reyna, 35, who had made the 8½-hour trip from Lubbock to say goodbye. "It's just not fair."

Yet, while they mourned the life and career that might have been, most took comfort in the faith that their beloved Selena was in a better place. "It's okay," said Corpus resident Kaye Mills, 55. "Now she'll sing with the angels."