After a week of shocking and amazing news, some Cleveland residents aired their concerns, Thursday night, to a group of public officials about the kidnapping of three area women who were held captive for years in a house on the city's west side. Ideastream's David C. Barnett has more on the hastily arranged community meeting.
About a 150 people filled the parish hall of Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church, that's been sitting on the end of Seymour Avenue since 1904. A group of city, county and state officials sat in front, behind a line of long tables, and made a series of five-minute speeches, interspersed with audience comments. Ward 14 Councilman Brian Cummins' voice cracked as he reviewed the events of an emotional week.
BRIAN CUMMINS: It's been a roller coaster. People have been overjoyed, originally. That joy shifted to anger, frustration, self-doubt, self-guilt. It's been very trying.
That frustration could be heard a number of times during the meeting as residents complained about the abandoned properties throughout the community, and the danger of streets darkened by burnt out lamps. But, there was also a general sense of support for the work of Second District Police Commander Keith Sulzer and his staff in keeping the community safe. Frank Harris prodded his neighbors in the hall to help make it safer.
FRANK HARRIS: I've lived in this community for many years and I say people gotr to watch out for each other. If you see something, say something
Afterwards, area resident Kristy Fann felt she had been talked at instead of listened to. She wanted to hear more about clearing the blight of boarded-up buildings, not a bunch of speeches
KRISTY FANN: I think it was political. I think all the politicians came out to be known.
Henry Senyak who lives a few blocks away from the church thinks the meeting was well-intentioned, but not well-attended. He thinks it should have been held a few days later to give more advanced notice.
HENRY SENYAK: When you're giving people less than 24 hours to come to such an important community meeting, I think it short-changes the ability and the capacity of bringing out the community.
One of the strongest statements of the evening came at the very beginning of the meeting, and it didn't come from a human voice.
As the church tower bells rang next door, Pastor Horst Hoyer called for a moment of meditation, so that the group could reflect on the recently-ended ordeal of Michelle Knight, Gina DeJesus, Amanda Berry and her six-year-old daughter. Hoyer noted that those bells have spoken to many people in this community over the past century, and he could only hope that they had given some sense of solace to the women who had spent so many years in a tightly locked house, just down the street.