‘Our tears are your tears:‘ Family, community members mourn Maddox Ritch

— A North Carolina community is in mourning one week after the body of 6-year-old Maddox Ritch was

The little boy went missing after he ran ahead of his father at a park. Thursday night, family, friends and strangers came out to remember Maddox.

With heavy hearts, family, friends and the first responders who so desperately searched for the 6-year-old gathered to begin to say goodbye.

Maddox’s aunt, Del Lindley, said family members are deeply grateful for those who tried to save him.

“Your heartfelt perseverance through this very difficult time will never be forgotten,” she said.

Police, firefighters, volunteers and the FBI spent six days searching the grounds and water in Rankin Lake Park after Maddox’s father said he ran ahead and got away from him. One week ago, they made the tragic discovery of his body in a nearby creek.

Thursday night, Maddox’s father arrived carrying a bucket and toys for his son, who loved to search for turtles.

“I cried. It was hard. I prayed, thinking hopefully they would find him,” Statesville resident Paula Trimnal said.

Trimnal never knew Maddox, but she does know the pain of losing a child. She brought balloons and teddy bears, hoping to console his family.

“To be honest with you, I’m just going to let the Lord guide me through it,” she said when asked what she would say to Maddox’s parents.

Though their sorrow is heavy, Maddox’s family said that in the tragedy they have found some comfort in knowing they are not alone.

“We realize that our prayers are your prayers also, and that our tears are your tears too,” Lindley said.

Police are still unclear on how Maddox died and authorities are awaiting autopsy results.