CLEVELAND-- About 200 people gathered Thursday night at Immanuel Lutheran Church on Scranton Road, near Seymour Avenue, for a prayer vigil and community forum.
Some broke down in tears as neighbors expressed a multitude of emotions from joy to anger to fear.
Many still can’t believe Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight were living in such close proximity all this time.
“It was overwhelming; it could’ve been me my niece anybody,” said Samona Johnson.
Representatives from the Cleveland Police Department, the Attorney General’s Office, Cleveland City Council members and countless other agencies were on hand to field questions and calm concerns.
Managing Attorney Randi Ostry with Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office said they really want to be out in the community and want residents to tell them how they can help.
The meeting began with a 2-minute moment of silence with the church bells ringing in the background. Bells, they say, the girls would’ve heard each and every Sunday while in captivity.
Deputy Chief Calvin Williams said, “The return of those 3 young ladies to our community- I think we can all agree is nothing short of a miracle.”
Some were questions they couldn’t answer because the investigation is ongoing.
52-year-old Ariel Castro was in court Thursday, charged with 4 counts of kidnapping and 3 counts of rape, and is being held on $8 million bond.
But Second District Commander Keith Sulzer assured everyone that police are listening to their concerns and taking all inquiries seriously.
He also said the disappearance of the girls was personal. He himself searched day and night for them. And he hopes that any concerns don’t overshadow the beauty of the girls being rescued.
“What should be a happy, smiley event has a shadow over it. That’s a shame; this was a miracle,” said Commander Sulzer.
In the end, all of the agencies pledged to be in this community and help residents heal in any way possible.
Commander Sulzer told people if they see something, say something. He encouraged them to call police and keep calling until they get a response. And he said if they aren’t satisfied with the response, call the commander.
And neighbors offered their own suggestions.
Shaletha Mitchell said, “You know we need to go back the roots to old school where we were nosey neighbors.”
Councilman Brian Cummins agreed, and said he is already seeing a change in the area.
He also mentioned plans to hold additional meetings similar to Thursday night's event.