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Prophetstown focuses on hope, one year after fire

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One year ago, two brothers sparked a fire in a recycling bin in Prophetstown, Illinois. The fire went on to cause $3 million in damage, destroying much of the historic downtown. On the night of July 15, 2014, the focus was on hope for the future.

Many people in the community gathered at a cook-out and a "Hope" Prophetstown Strong ceremony that were held Tuesday evening, July 15, 2014, at Eclipse Memorial Park.

"We remember the devastation, the debris, and the feeling of hopelessness. July 15, 2013 was horrific," said Pastor Cheri Stewart.

The men and women who worked to rescue Prophetstown's downtown were recognized. There was also special recognition for the rescue workers who saved Dolores Francis, who was in her apartment at the time of the fire.

"They saved my life. Yep, they did," said Francis.

There were tears at the ceremony, but the focus was on the future.

"Tonight, we're celebrating because this community has so many reasons to hope," said Stewart.
"There's hope that everything going to turn out okay," said Francis.

At the end of the ceremony, the community gathered at the future spot of a new branch of IH Mississippi Valley Credit Union.

Stewart had one last request for those at the ceremony.

"Forgiveness is the most valuable gift we can give to the boys, to their family, and it's a gift to the community, too. And I realize that this might be extremely difficult for some, but forgiveness is the only thing that will free us from the past and give us a hope filled future," Stewart said.