STANLEY, N.C. -- The pews were overflowing as community members packed Gold Hill Missionary Baptist Church Tuesday night in memory of two children killed Sunday near Stanley.
The bodies of Chloe Arwood, 6, and James Caldwell, 7, were recovered Monday morning from a 24-foot deep pit. The children were visiting their grandparents on Cedarbrook Court and playing in the pit when a dirt wall collapsed on them.
“My wife is a school teacher. She was close to the kids,” said East Lincoln Assistant Fire Chief, Mike Turner.
Turner said the tragedy has affected his own family, since the children were active in the community. Teary-eyed teachers from the children’s school made their way to the children’s grandmother to offer a comforting embrace during the service.
Turner was also among the firefighters who worked tirelessly to try and rescue the children Sunday.
"We didn't want to give up," he said.
Many firefighters attended the vigil to pay their respects.
"It's not like we're just firefighters. We are very involved in the community and we knew this family," he said.
Many in attendance were consoled by their faith, including the children’s grandmother, Nancy Caldwell. She thanked the community for their support and recounted the heavenly vision she said put her at peace.
"But it's not sad thing because as they took their last breath, Chloe was on the left and James on the right and they reached up and ascended into heaven."
After the service, all gathered outside to release dozens of balloons into the sky. Bible verses and cards bearing the children’s names were attached to the balloons.
Bishop Franklin Lowery challenged the hurt to let go of the burden and pain, and look to above for comfort. The Bishop said such gestures are also helping him through these times.
“I’m overcome with grief as well and I draw on them coming, and people coming here. I draw strength from this community," he said.
James Caldwell will be laid to rest at the church cemetery located on the property. Funeral arrangements have not been made public.
Police are still investigating the cave-in.