Ooltewah High School students had the chance to unite Tuesday night before school starts back Wednesday.
A group of about 100 people attended the prayers service and prayed for the basketball player injured in the attack, his family as well as school administrators and the three players charged with the crime.
Organizers did not allow video cameras inside the service, but the message from the Ooltewah community still rings loud and clear.
They filed into Christway Community Church: Parents, students and teammates of Ooltewah High School.
The event was organized by the OHS chapter of Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Inside, they divided into groups united through the power of prayer.
"I came her tonight to share my love and my heart with God's people," former OHS student Emmanuel Jackson said.
Two weeks after the rape of an Ooltewah basketball player, many still struggle to comprehend the scope of what happened. Three older teammates are charged in the crime.
Senior athlete Lorenzo Pickett understands the bond teammates share.
"I know that those situations are hard sometimes because there is a lot of horseplay in sports. It's a brotherhood and it's constant in like joking around and honestly, it's what brings us tighter is playing around and joking around and this was the same thing, just taken way too far," he said.
We received permission from Pickett's mother for this interview and tonight, he's not here to take sides.
"God loved everybody and we should loved people and not constantly put people down and that's what I've been seeing, is condemning people," Pickett added.
It's a message that rang loud and clear for District 9 School Board Member Dr. Steve Highlander, when service leaders prayed for everyone impacted by the situation including those accused.
"It's a hard side to look at, but when I saw a young person praying like that, that was a lot of depth and I appreciated it very much," he said.
Parents like Tommy Wiggonton are proud to see unity from the Ooltewah community but say the lack of response from Superintendent Rick Smith speaks volumes.
"All these cars and all these people inside, they're asking him 'Please talk to us,' and I think tonight or tomorrow he should give some kind of statement. It should have come days ago, in my opinion," he said.
The Hamilton County School Board will hold a special session Wednesday night at the Hamilton County Board of Education. A portion of the meeting will be closed to the public.
Stay with Channel 3 for updates regarding this story.
Saturday, January 20 2018 2:57 AM EST2018-01-20 07:57:16 GMT
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