by Rick Boone

PARADISE (CBS13) — The remaining 3,500 residents in Paradise came together Friday to remember how their lives and town have changed, and look to what’s next for them.

It was a family reunion of sorts for some residents, gathering with friends and neighbors they haven’t seen in a year and remembering those who are gone forever.

From the voices of Paradise’s smallest residents came music of remembrance.

It was part of a community gathering for the people of Paradise, one year after the Camp Fire. The town convened inside one of the few structures still standing in town, getting salutes from Governor Gavin Newsom to President Donald Trump.

“Melania joins me in sending our thoughts and prayers to those gathered today in Paradise, California,” President Trump said in a letter read to the group.

In addition to the somber tone of the day, there was also laughter, especially from children watching online the past year, their favorite comedian, trying to smile more while avoiding the pain of losing their home.

“We watched Jim Gaffigan to cheer us up whenever we started thinking of fire, so our minds would be on jokes and stuff like that,” one girl said.

Her family also made holiday ornaments as a way to remember and give to residents for free.

“All the stuff we got as a gift burned, so we were like let’s make some ornaments,” another boy said.

The night of looking back was also a night of connecting with friends. James and Tara are buddies who bonded last year as Paradise was burning down. She put out an alert on social media offering help, and he was the first to show up at her door.

“She was trying to get me to take clothes and I wouldn’t do it, but we’ve been real good friends ever since,” James said.

As Paradise moves forward past this night, elected leaders say they’ll keep serving even though they too lost everything.

Residents say they know it’s not going to be easy making those steps forward, but they have each other and they say no fire can destroy that bond.

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