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Residents seek solace in their faith Clarence church opens doors to help community find spiritual comfort

Some area residents Friday sought solace in their faith following the tragic plane crash that killed 50 people in Clarence late Thursday.

About 1,000 people attended a community worship service in Clarence's Eastern Hills Wesleyan Church, 8445 Greiner Road, to grieve even if they did not know any of the victims or their loved ones.

"We're not our own. We belong to one another," the Rev. Karl Eastlack said. "We belong to the community, and we thought it would be good to spend some time praying for our community. . . ."

"One of the ways [God] worked was through those wonderful people that rushed [to the scene] last night to that home, to that crashed plane. These first-responders were God's gift to this community. They were wonderful people rushing into very dangerous places," he continued.

Eastlack said church members fed volunteer firefighters and others who responded to the scene of the crash on Long Street in Clarence Center.

Several other area clergymen joined Eastlack on the church stage. The Rev. Chuck Smith of Clarence Center United Methodist Church, one of the churches closest to the tragedy, led a prayer.

Eastlack said that while the community will never be the same after Thursday's tragedy, the community service Friday will help the healing process.

"Today we're going to pray for those families who are suffering great, great loss today, here in Eastern Hills, in our own congregation. . . . We have at least three families," Eastlack said.

"Two of them -- their sisters were on the airplane," said Eastlack, who noted congregation member Brad Green was on the plane. "We need a prayer for our own," he said. "Many of the churches represented here today have been affected by this. We all know someone who knows someone."

John Anderson of South Buffalo, who attended the service Friday, knew none of the victims or their families but was compelled to come to the church.

"You know, it gives me a perspective on my life," Anderson said.

"I couldn't even begin to imagine what to say to [the victims' families] or what they're feeling, but I just thought I wanted to pay my respects," he added.

Josh Helsel-Raymond, 20, of Kenmore, attended with his girlfriend's family, some of whom are members of Eastern Hills.

"I feel like as a community we need to be here for each other, and this is a great example of like-people gathering together and saying: 'We're here for you,' and expressing our love and our faith for the community and everyone that was affected," Helsel-Raymond said.


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