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Friends and family gather to celebrate Carlie Trent homecoming

Published: May. 14, 2016 at 6:52 PM EDT
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Friends, family and even strangers joined at the Rogersville City Park to celebrate Carlie Trent's safe return home Saturday.

The gathering was initially organized as a massive search for the 9-year-old, who was the subject of an AMBER Alert. But after Trent's rescue Thursday, the community turned the get-together into a welcome home party,

"Took my breath away. The most beautiful little girl," said Roger Carpenter about meeting Trent for the first time. He was one of the men that helped find her.

"It's unreal. Unreal. Beyond imagination to me." said Larry Hamblen, who was also part of the rescue.

"Thank the Lord for her being home," chimed in Stuart Franklin. His friend Donnie Lawson said Franklin held a gun to Trent's accused kidnapper -- her uncle Gary Simpson -- while Lawson took Trent and ran for help.

The homecoming was stocked with a bounce house, presents and a hearty "welcome home" from the community, who spent days on end searching for Trent.

"This proves who we are. No surprise at all," said Hannah Hunter, who helped search.

"They missed her and I'm just glad that she got to come back home," said Jason Goins, while choking back tears. He also helped with the search.

The effort spanned from the streets to the internet.

"I added 67 people to the (Help Find Carlie Trent Facebook page) on my own. Now, last time I checked – I haven't looked today – there's like 9,500 almost 10,000 people in the group," said Brooke Hall, Trent's cousin and an organizer of that Facebook group. She also helped put together Saturday's party.

In his 25 years with the Rogersville Police Department, Detective Charlie Gibson said he's never seen people band together like this.

"It makes you feel really, really good. Makes you sleep good in the night time too," he said.

Trent's dad, James Trent, spent the day shaking the hand of everyone he could. But his biggest thank you was to the four men who brought his little girl home.

"Oh it's great. I was anxious to meet them guys," James Trent said. "I'd like to find out where they live and sit and talk with them, that's what I'd actually like to do."

Trent said he spent most of the night just watching Carlie sleep. When she woke up, Carlie asked to head over to the Rogersville City Park to see her family and friends, Trent added.

Carlie is anxious to get back to school. Trent said the family is going to try to put her in class Monday.