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Colleyville rabbi leads healing service for thousands after 'terrifying' hostage situation

People across different faiths gathered together for the service. Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker told the crowd "we will get through this."

COLLEYVILLE, Texas — With hundreds gathering inside White Chapel United Methodist Church and more than 4,000 watching online, Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker led a service for community healing.

Less than 48 hours earlier, he was inside Congregation Beth Israel as a gunman held him and three other men hostage.

“Thank god,” Cytron-Walker told the crowd. “Thank God. It could’ve been so much worse.”

He began by thanking law enforcement, his congregation and the community for support and noted Martin Luther King Jr. Day is an example of how powerful love can be.

“While very few of us are doing ok right now, we’ll get through this,” he said.

Earlier Monday, he revealed new details about the standoff in an interview with CBS Mornings.

“It was terrifying,” he said. “It was overwhelming, and we’re still processing.”

ABC News and WFAA sources confirmed Malik Akram arrived in the U.S. from Manchester, England just before the new year and listed a Queens hotel as his address on a customs form. The FBI is working to determine if he stayed there before coming to Dallas.

In Dallas, he stayed at OurCalling homeless shelter the night of Jan. 2 and at another Dallas homeless shelter.

On Saturday, Cytron-Walker said the two shared tea before the service.

“Some of his story didn’t quite add up so I was a little bit curious but that’s not necessarily an uncommon thing,” Cytron-Walker told CBS Mornings.

While praying and with his back turned, he heard Akram chamber a round in a handgun.

Another hostage, Jeffery Cohen, posted on Facebook about what they experienced.

“I heard that unmistakable sound of an automatic slide engaging a round. But it was out of place and the building makes many strange sounds,” he wrote in post. “Rabbi Charlie heard it too and looked over at our 'guest.' Within a moment, he was yelling something (but that wasn't important). I keep my phone next to me during services, and that was important. I quickly dialed 911 and put the phone screen side down on the chair and moved as commanded.”

“Somehow together, we made it through that traumatic ordeal,” Cytron-Walker said in Monday’s service.

He had been discretely texting with Colleyville Police Chief Michael Miller, and, after 11 hours, he saw a chance to act.

“The last hour or so of the standoff, he wasn’t getting what he wanted. He was getting – it didn’t look good. It didn’t sound good,” he said. “I told them to go. I threw a chair at the gunman. And I headed for the door. And all three of us were able to get out without even a shot being fired.”

Cytron-Walker became emotional at moments during Monday’s service, saying the turnout and support is a testament to community empathy.

“Your presence means the world,” he said.

After 48 hours, songs and prayers began the process towards healing.

“While very few of us are doing ok right now, we’ll get through this,” Cytron-Walker said. “It will take time but slowly we will heal.”

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