Whitney Houston is finally home.
The singer's body was returned to her native Newark shortly before midnight Monday amid a throng of screaming fans who waited hours for the hearse to arrive at .
Surrounded by heavy police presence, a gold-colored car with blacked out windows dropped off Houston's casket, concealed by a white tent, at a back entrance off Shipman Street. Houston's mother, Cissy, and other family members were seen filing into the funeral home about 15 minutes before the hearse arrived.
Houston, who was inside a Beverly Hills hotel room Saturday, was flown from California to Teterboro Airport in New Jersey for the wake and public memorial that .
"She's always been a person who comes back to her roots," said Munirah Bomani, 47, a lifelong Newark resident. "She's my hometown girl and my inspiration."
In the hours before Houston's casket even landed in the state, mourners held a candlelight vigil outside the funeral home and sang along to Houston's chart-topping songs like "I Believe in You and Me" blaring from a parked car. In spite of the freezing cold, the crowd didn't seem to mind waiting for hours on end to catch a glimpse of Houston's hearse. Some fans even donned black Houston memorial t-shirts over their clothes to keep warm.
"I would've waited out here 'til 2 a.m.," said Marconja Zor, 29, who credits Houston for influencing her to pursue an acting career.
After trekking to Newark from her home in Washington, D.C., Zor, waited seven hours in the cold for Houston's casket to arrive. But the moment was "absolutely worth it," she said.
But for Kim Peace, Houston's return to Brick City meant saying one last goodbye to a longtime friend. Peace, 43, of Newark, remembered singing with Houston in and called the six-time Grammy Award winner her mentor.
"She made some bad decisions in her life," said Peace, as tears streamed down her face. "I just don't understand how this could've happened to her."