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City of Hesston gathers for town hall meeting

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HESSTON, Kan. -- Law enforcement and city leadership in Hesston have continued to work around the clock since Thursday, when a gunman killed three people and shot more than a dozen more at Excel Industries. City councilmen, school district leaders, and first responders continued that work Sunday afternoon in a public town hall, set up to answer questions from residents.

Citizens of Hesston holds signs of support at the town hall meeting.

Citizens of Hesston holds signs of support at the town hall meeting.

"Hesston Strong." It's been the battlecry since Thursday's mass shooting. Strength shown in the small town of less than 4,000, through planning ahead. Hesston mayor David Kauffman said as the investigation draws to a close, the efforts will now shift to recovery and healing. "The only way we can get through things like this is meetings like this, then drawing on our faith and being together."

Sunday afternoon at Hesston High School, city leaders greeted everyone then took questions for the audience of several dozen.

Phil DiIller had just left work Thursday when the shooting started at Excel. He was on his way home when got a text from a friend about what happened. He came to the meeting Saturday to learn how he could help. "Really just to know what's going on, if I can help in some way, at work or in the community, then I have an idea of how to do that."

Diller's son wants to be a police officer when he grows up. Diller has let little Hunter watch the news since the shooting, so the boy can learn and understand. Hunter held the sign "Hesston Strong" and said to him, it means "that we are strong. We have courage."

Other town hall discussion included how to help the Excel victims, the possibility of putting in an alert system for future catastrophes, and ways in which the school responded Thursday, which included immediate use of radios instead of cell phones. City leadership said transparency and availability are critical for their town as people try to move forward.

Diller said Excel employees are off Monday, and from there, going back to work will go on a day-by-day basis. He confirmed employees are getting paid while they're away from work.

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A table at the town hall meeting featured candles for each victim, and one for the the shooter. "He needs prayers too," one gatherer said.