Stores reopened and residents of Lewiston were out riding bikes and playing in parks again as a sense of relief washed over the region Saturday after the suspected gunman in Wednesday night’s mass shooting was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot.
The shootings in Maine’s second largest city at a local bowling alley and a bar and grill took the lives of 18 people, including one teenaged boy and his father. Thirteen more people were wounded. The suspected shooter, Robert Card, was a 40-year-old Army reservist from Bowdoin, a nearby rural town.
Residents expressed relief that the manhunt was over, but also profound feelings of loss — a sense that their community is forever changed.
“I feel very sorry for all involved. It’s sad, very sad for everyone that suffered. I’m glad I wasn’t there,” said Laurie Chouinard, a 67-year-old retired nursing assistant from Lewiston. She was coming out of the local Shaw's supermarket, which had been closed during the two days of a shelter-in-place order local officials issued Wednesday night.
“I feel very sorry for all involved. It’s sad, very sad for everyone that suffered.”Laurie Chouinard, Lewiston resident
Shopper Hank Dupuis said the manhunt had centered largely on his town, Lisbon, where police divers, boats and helicopters searched rivers and woods Friday after discovering an abandoned car and cellphone near a boat ramp.
“I’m glad it’s all over. It was kind of scary and nerve-wracking for a while,” said Dupuis, 69. “I live about ten minutes from where he was found.”
Government officials along with faith and community leaders are now turning their attention to healing the community and the families of victims. Vigils were planned across Lewiston, Lisbon and other communities for several days beginning Saturday night.
A support center has been established specifically for surviving family members and anyone who was at the bar and bowling alley when the shooting took place.
“It’s a one-stop-shop, one central space for victims to gather so that they don't have to make multiple stops for multiple different agencies to seek assistance,” Maine Commissioner of Public Safety Michael Sauschuck said Saturday morning at a press conference at Lewiston City Hall. “Whether you were a victim … or you were there and traumatized in either one of those situations, the Family Assistance Center will be a good spot.”
For other residents needing mental health counseling, officials set up a drop-in program at a local Ramada Inn, Sauschuck said.
Dave Irwin, a major with The Salvation Army of Lewiston-Auburn, said his organization is preparing meals for families of the 18 victims, and he expects a long road of healing in the area.
“It's a very tight-knit community,” said Irwin, standing outside the city’s armory building. “Families are going to want to get together … people need a place to go to find some comfort among others. We just need to support each other.”
“People need a place to go to find some comfort among others. We just need to support each other.”Dave Irwin, The Salvation Army of Lewiston-Auburn
In downtown Lewiston many shops were reopening Saturday, including numerous small groceries operated by immigrants from several African countries.
Hussein Ahmed, a storeowner who has lived in Lewiston for decades and worked with the city’s refugee resettlement programs, said the large immigrant community is also shocked by the violence and shares in the city’s grief.
“It's not the norm for this city. We are one of the cities with the least violence or criminal cases in the whole country,” said Ahmed, 46.
The city is starting to return to normal, he added, but everything feels different now.
“It's relief that we are not going to lose more life because of this criminal individual,” he added. “Still, it won't replace the child, the dads, the moms we lost. I mean, he has caused us a lot of pain that it will take us a long time to recover from.”
Lisbon Police Chief Ryan McGee also sought to shift the focus from the horror of the shooting and the tension of the dayslong manhunt to healing and rebuilding.
“We should only be really thinking about the victims,” he said at Saturday’s press conference. “Right now, we want to be remembered as the community that came together after this tragic event. This morning I'm driving through Lisbon and I see people walking the streets, people sitting on their porches, people waving thumbs up. That's what community is all about.”