Paula Escalada Medrano
Lewiston (USA), 29 Oct (EFE). – After two days of confinement, living with the horror of a killer on the loose, the inhabitants of Lewiston are trying to regain calm and begin to honor the 18 dead in the two shootings that will forever change this quiet town in Maine.
On Wednesday night, a 40-year-old man, a soldier in the reserves, broke the bubble of calm for people bowling at the Just-in-Time Recreation bowling alley or playing pool at the Schemengees Bar and Grille, and after that day the citizens of Lewiston know that nothing will ever be the same.
“This will change us forever,” Sarah S., a resident of Lisbon, the town 12 kilometres (7 miles) from Lewiston where Robert Card’s body was found Friday night in a recycling truck with a self-inflicted gunshot wound, told EFE.
In addition to the 18 dead, a total of 13 people were injured, including a relative of Sarah, a 16-year-old boy who was bowling and is still in hospital.
“It’s indescribable, I really have no words for what this has meant to our community,” she says, almost on the verge of tears as she holds a candle.
She attended the vigil organized in Lisbon on Saturday night, the first sign of collective mourning, held three days after the events.
After Lewiston, citizens did not take to the streets to cover the victims with flowers, candles or messages of affection, as happened in Uvalde after the attack on Robb Elementary School (21 dead) or in Las Vegas at the Route 91 Harvest Festival (59 dead).
After Card opened fire with his assault rifle, sneaking into an area full of forests and rivers, the citizens had to stay in their homes for two days, with a feeling of terror and insecurity that many have experienced in the US.
According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been 576 mass shootings in 2023, with at least four people injured or killed, not including the shooter.
Although the horror has passed with the discovery of Card’s body, the people of Lewiston are struggling to wake up and many are still living in fear.
“This is not the end, but it is the beginning, the beginning of the road to healing,” said Pastor Jonathan Jones at the vigil.
On Saturday, few shops were open and there were few physical tributes to the victims of the tragedy.
A few heart-shaped posters stuck to signs or shop windows with the words “We will not forget you” coexisted with the Halloween decorations that are now abundant in every corner of the country.
On Sunday, the authorities organized a massive vigil at the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, a striking neo-Gothic building built at the beginning of the 20th century and belonging to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland.
It was to be held in a civic center, but it was decided to change the venue to accommodate more people.
In the morning, at the 8:30 Mass, the priest’s sermon urged people to face the grieving process with faith, and was scathing about guns.
“This is what happens when you have military weapons, designed to kill people, among you. It is very dangerous, it is like being surrounded by gasoline,” he said.
Lewiston, he added, was “not the end” of tragedies: “Even if it seems that you live in a quiet place, it can happen to you at any moment.”
The feeling in Lewiston these days is one of the unexpected in a state where the crime rate is much lower than the national average: 1.7 homicides per 100,000 people, compared with the national average of 7.8.
Yet, Maine is also one of the states with the most lax gun control laws, with few restrictions on the purchase and possession of guns.
“You never think it could happen to you. You prepare, but you always hope it never happens here,” said Bre Allard, 40, an elementary school teacher in Lewiston, Maine’s second largest city with 36,000 residents.
On Saturday morning, she took her children to place some blue wooden crosses at the two sites of the tragedy, along with some drawings the children had made during the lockdown.
“We needed something to occupy us and we knew we couldn’t go out, so we did this to show our support,” she says.
When she returns to school on Monday, she will have to face her class, the collective pain, and explain to the children how their lives will go on.
“They really want to go back to class, to get back to normal,” explains the mother of five.
The families of the 18 deceased are mourning away from the cameras, in the support center the presence of the media is strictly forbidden.
A presence that has been overwhelming these days for a quiet city, one of those where nothing ever happens until it does.EFE