LEWISTON, Maine (AP) — Children were back in school in Lewiston and on the streets dressed as dinosaurs and princesses for Halloween, after a chaotic week that saw the deadliest mass shooting in Maine’s history and a massive search for the suspect as people sheltered indoors.
Hundreds of students returned to Lewiston High School, petting therapy dogs and signing a large banner that read “Lewiston Strong.” Days earlier the campus had been transformed into a law enforcement command post, with helicopters utilizing athletic fields and 300 vehicles filling the parking lot.
“Today’s going to be hard,” Superintendent Jake Langlais said. “But I think there’s strength in gathering, in unity, in getting back together.”
Jayden Sands, a 15-year-old sophomore, said one of his football coaches lost four friends. One of his best friends also lost a friend, and his mom’s friend was shot four times but survived.
Sands is glad to be back at school though safety was in the back of his mind.
“A lot of people are shocked and scared,” he said. “I’m just happy to be here. You know, another day to live. Hopefully it gets better.”
On Wednesday night, a U.S. Army reservist and firearms instructor from Bowdoin fatally shot 18 people at a bowling alley and a bar. A massive search followed on land and water for 40-year-old Robert Card. Authorities issued a shelter-in-place order for residents before Card was found dead Friday.
Nearly a week later, parents and children were searching for candy in their favorite costumes, many thronging a long-running event put on by Peter Geiger, whose Lewiston-based business publishes the Farmers’ Almanac. Each year hundreds visit to get king-size candy bars — as long as they know the “secret” password — which this Halloween was “Lewiston Strong.”
And again, the streets were filled with assorted ghosts, monsters, Disney princesses and blow-up dinosaurs, a Halloween almost like any other.
“I hurt as much as anyone else. For all of us there’s a loss,” Geiger said. “But I’m not going to let somebody undo a fun night for kids and families.”
Michelle Russell, assistant principal at McMahon Elementary School, who was with her granddaughter, dressed as a witch, said it was important to go trick-or-treating.
“We’re trying to get back to normal, if we can do that. We’re taking it slow,” she said.
Logan Phelps, of Greene, said Halloween was a distraction from a tough week, including some difficult discussions he and wife Rebecca had with the kids.
Luna, 5, and Juniper, 3, were both dressed as Wonder Woman, and their 20-month-old brother, Allister, as a Triceratops.
“At the end of the day, you’ve got to keep going, and you’ve got to keep living your life,” Phelps said.
Heather Hunter, a city administrator in Lewiston, said she was heartened to see steps toward normalcy but acknowledged the community has a long way to go.
“It’s similar to COVID. We’re adjusting to a new normal,” she said.
Back at Lewiston High School, senior Calista Karas said students have much to process. Sheltering at home was frightening, Karas said. And on the day of the shootings, she couldn’t immediately reach her mother, who was at work.
“I just couldn’t believe something like this would happen here — to us,” Karas said.
When she walked through the school doors Tuesday, she felt her stomach drop somewhat. “It was a weird experience to walk though school and see … life going on,” she said.
Langlais, the superintendent, said staff and students will take it one day at a time, understanding that some will need more support than others.
“Having helicopters with search lights and infrared sensors over your homes and apartments is pretty uncomfortable,” he said. “So we’re recognizing that everybody had some level of impact.”
In Washington, D.C., independent Sen. Angus King and Republican Sen. Susan Collins took to the Senate floor Tuesday night to remember the dead.
“A week ago, there was a tear in the fabric of our community,” King said.
“We’re going to have a lot of time around here to talk about policy and what to do about this problem and what our policies can and should be,” he said. “But tonight, my colleague and I simply want to remember the people that lost their lives.”
Collins, standing next to a placard with photos of the victims, talked about how the 18 died because of “a senseless act.”
“No words can diminish the pain, shock and understandable anger felt by the families who lost loved ones. Nevertheless, it is my hope they will find solace and strength knowing they are in the hearts of so many,” she said.
Each of the victims’ names were read aloud — half by each senator.