HERMITAGE, Pa. (WKBN) – Last week, a couple with a link to the Valley was badly burned in the volcanic eruption in New Zealand.
One of the victims grew up in Hermitage.
On Sunday night, his childhood neighbors held a candlelight vigil to pray for the couple’s safe return.
They wanted to show that even thousands of miles away, their hope and support is still burning strong.
“The reason we’re here tonight is not only for Matt and Lauren but for the other people who have gone through the terrible ordeal in New Zealand,” said Vic Ellenberger, one of the neighbors.
Hermitage native Matt Urey and his new wife Lauren were honeymooning on a private island when the volcano erupted December 9.
Thankfully, they made it out, but both were badly burned.
Sunday night, Matt’s hometown neighbors held a vigil in their honor.
“The power of prayer reaches for everybody,” said another neighbor, Carl Penniman.
Ellenberger has been a neighbor of the family since Matt was just a little boy. He organized this even to spread love to the Urey’s and pray for their safe return.
“And with the way things are in the world right now, we need to start caring about each other and we really need to get that feeling back,” said Ellenberger.
Penniman is a next door neighbor. He was happy to see so many people show their love for the young couple.
“Uplifting. It was definitely a spiritual uplifting to see people you don’g even know before yourself,” said Penniman.
And even standing thousands of miles across the world, Ellenberger wanted Matt and Lauren to have this message.
“Know that a lot of people that you know and don’t know are praying for you, that they love you. Be strong. Please be strong. Don’t give up, and you will heal,” he said.
With hands intertwined, they ended the vigil in song.
Matt’s mother, Jan, who still lives in Hermitage, is in New Zealand with the couple while they recover.
Authorities say at least six people were confirmed dead after the eruption.
Search and recovery efforts are ongoing.