Hundreds of residents attended the community meeting Sunday, filling Sammamish High School’s auditorium beyond capacity. Here, the crowd listens to the fire and police chiefs recount the arson (Allison DeAngelis/staff photos).

‘We have the opportunity to decide what kind of community we’re going to be’

Residents pack Bellevue mosque arson community meeting

Around 500 Bellevue residents packed in Sammamish High School’s auditorium Jan. 15 to learn more about the fire at the Islamic Center of the Eastside and ways in which they can help.

The attendees — Muslims, Christians and atheists alike — listened to city and Islamic officials detail the Jan. 14 arson that has displaced the city’s Islamic worshipers. Bellevue Fire Chief Mark Risen and Police Chief Steve Mylett recounted their teams’ response to the early morning fire, while representatives from the Islamic Center voiced their thanks for the outpouring of support they have received.

Whatever the suspect’s motives, the panelists stated, this is a critical time in Bellevue and one that should bring the community together.

“It’s times like this where we learn what kind of community we really have. We have the opportunity to decide what kind of community we’re going to be,” Leadership Eastside CEO James Whitfield said, eliciting a standing ovation from the crowd. “History turns on moments like this.”

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