NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Wednesday night, hundreds gathered in downtown Nashville to not only grieve but come together as one community.
“Just two days ago, was our city’s worst day,” said Mayor John Cooper.
Looking into the crowd, families held each other tightly as children clung to their parents.
Nashville Police Chief John Drake addressed the crowd, at times seemingly holding back tears.
“Even though our police department and our fire department have trained for years, we still hoped this would never happen,” he said.
Between the moments of silence and tears, words of comfort were heard by many.
“It’s devastating and just continuing to go to work and seeing the 9-year-olds at my school, and just to hug them and love them,” said Olivia Ophein, who works in a Nashville school.
Olivia’s family stood by her side as they listened to each speaker.
“Right now, the fear is loud and prominent. I want everyone to feel safe. I want to be safe in knowing that they will come home alive and that seems like more of a reality that it’s a possibility that they won’t,” said Jeanette Ophein.
“I have a coworker and a family friend that had a daughter in the classroom. This hits closer to home than anything we’ve had,” Zach Ophein.
Many were brought to tears during the vigil. During the vigil, Mike Hill‘s family, stood on stage, in his honor.
“I’ve heard people say they’re in a better place. I wouldn’t say he’s in a better place because God had something planned for him down here on Earth. I’m just keeping not only Mike in my prayers, but all the family,” said one woman in the crowd, who knows the Hill family personally.
Among those in attendance, First Lady Jill Biden stood beside Nashville Fire Director Chief William Swann. She stood, listened and watched Nashville try to be strong.
“Nashville has had its worst today. Our heart is broken, and our city is united as we mourn together. When words cannot carry what’s in our hearts we must reach out to each other, to help each other carry the load, to think of all the hugs that they would have had and all the hugs we can still give each other,” said the mayor.