The people of Prophetstown, Illinois, came together in prayer Wednesday night, just days after a fire destroyed eight buildings in the heart of downtown.
Hundreds of residents gathered in Eclipse Square for a community prayer service.The evening began with a standing ovation for the firefighters and first responders who battled Monday’s blaze.
“It’s a small town, 2,000 people. Everybody knows each other. It’s a great feeling to be out here, and I’m sure you can see that,” said Main Street President Gerald Millsap.
Organizers said the focus of the evening was hope and healing, after learning Tuesday that two boys had been arrested in connection with the fire.
“We need to show forgiveness. We need to open our hearts to the people that need it,” said longtime resident Chrissy Barton Howard.
Donated shirts read “Prophet Strong” — just one example of the support that’s poured into town over the past week.
“By Monday afternoon, we had 18 pallets of water delivered in cases. We figure that’s over 10,000 bottles of water. It’s just incredible,” said Cheri Stewart, pastor of Prophetstown United Methodist Church.
From the park, residents walked together down Washington Street, where they held hands and circled the fire’s damage. Each left with a brick from the demolished Cindy Jean’s Restaurant.
“I’ll probably put it on my mantel as a reminder of what happened,” said Millsap.
A fund for the fire victims has been set up at Farmer’s National Bank. You can donate at any of the banks three locations in Prophetstown, Morrison and Geneseo.
Clothing donations are also being collected at Prophetstown United Methodist Church from 9 a.m. until noon Thursday and Friday, and all day on Monday.