WIGGINS, MS (WLOX) - A week of controversy in Stone County began on Tuesday after a high school student was accused of putting a noose around another student's neck.
Now, church leaders in the area want to help start the healing process.
"It is so important for us to show the world that we are a community that when something like this happens we come together," said Rev. Robby Rikard of Wiggins First Baptist.
After the Mississippi NAACP urged federal authorities to investigate the alleged hate crime, around 100 people gathered in Wiggins for a prayer rally on Wednesday.
"The goal here is to let the world know that in Stone County there is love between the two races," noted Rev. David Graves of Emanuel Faith Temple.
A handful of Stone High Students were in the crowd, including 11th grader Jordan Turan, who is on the football team with the victim. He says he wasn't far from the incident - which has now made national headlines - when it happened.
"I was very surprised that it happened to my friend," said Turan. "I was pretty upset."
Stone High freshman Jeremiah Montgomery says he's known the victim almost his whole life. He says came to the prayer rally to show support not only for his friend, but also for his community.
"Even though something like this could happen in a small community like this, not everybody in it is the same way. We're not all bad, we have hearts," said Montgomery. "Some people just joke around and do things that they want to do, but there are still good people out here. "
Both Montgomery and Turan say they've learned a lot from the situation.
"The person who did it probably thought it was a joke to be playing around with, but to think about it, it's not a joke," said Turan. "I wouldn't do it, because if you have second thoughts in your head, then why would you do that in the first place. "
While Stone County waits to see what an investigation reveals, residents continue to lean on each other for support.
"If there's any community in this whole country that can get through this, it's Wiggins and Stone County," said Robby Rikard.
Federal investigators are working to determine whether the Department of Justice should take action in Stone County.