HAMPTON, Va. - It has been nearly a week since the body of 2-year-old Noah Tomlin was found. As police continue their investigation into his disappearance and death, a Hampton church is hoping to help heal the community with a special event.
The "Night of Hope" was held at Calvary Assembly of God church at 7 p.m. Tuesday. The church is located on N. Mallory Street, down the road from Noah's home and where police say he was last seen. Since the church is so close to Noah's home, police searched the church's property when Noah was first reported missing.
"They had two volunteers and they had climbed into our dumpster digging around through every bag trying to find this little boy," explained Youth Pastor Mike Dudley. "It was hot; it was one of those hot, steamy days and we have a day care here, so the trash bags have day care things . That didn’t slow those volunteers down at all. They went through every bag."
As Dudley and Lead Pastor Dave Highlander looked on, they watched their community hurt.
"We really saw the community in a state of hopelessness," said Highlander, "not really knowing what to do or how to respond. They were frustrated. They were angry, and they didn’t know what to do."
The pastors say these emotions are still being felt by the Buckroe Beach community, so they decided to hold an event for neighbors to come together and heal.
The "Night of Hope" event was open to everyone affected by Noah's disappearance and death. While it was be held at the church, they said it was not a "religion-heavy" event.
"We are trying to provide a place that people can come together and they can find other people that are hurting that are just as frustrated or angry as they are and find relief."
People in attendance prayed for hope, healing and unity. They also said even though they didn't know Noah, the news of his death has a major impact on them.
"Sometimes you feel like you're the only person with certain emotions and it's nice to know that other people are grieving, that they don't have answers," Connie Johnson said.
Pastors also said prayers for the two kids and two adults shot at Buckroe Beach in June.
Wednesday night, loved ones and neighbors again gathered to remember Noah, covering the tree at his memorial with more flowers, notes and gifts.
"We're a broken community, as they said last night. It's stuff like this that will help to get this community back on its feet, because that's one of my goals," said community member Douglas Brown.