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With shooting suspect still at large, Maine colleges remained closed Thursday

Lisbon Street in downtown Lewiston is empty Thursday morning. (Brian Mann / NPR)
Brian Mann / NPR
Lisbon Street in downtown Lewiston is empty Thursday morning.

Classes are canceled and students are sheltering on campuses across Maine after a killing spree Wednesday night in Lewiston shattered a sense of safety for thousands in the region.

As of Thursday morning, students at Bates College were still being instructed to shelter in place, as the suspect in the 18 shooting deaths remained at large.

Bates’ 133-acre campus lies between the two locations targeted in the shootings, a bowling alley and a restaurant in Maine's second-largest city.

Anntonia Taylor, a Bates senior and Lynnfield native, sheltered for 13 hours in a dance studio before being moved back to her dorm by campus emergency management services. She spoke Thursday morning with WBUR's Radio Boston.

"I've been to that bowling alley with my friends and I've walked past that bar and just, these places that are so real and so connected to Bates," she said. "It's shocking, and upsetting. I'm just trying to understand it all."

Taylor said she was worried for the broader Lewiston community.

"Seeing this happen to this community is just so heartbreaking because everyone's going to know somebody and everyone is going to be affected. And it feels like this was actively trying to harm and go after the community," she said.

Classes were canceled Thursday at Bates — home to about 300 students from Massachusetts according to recent school records. And the planned Friday inauguration of the school’s ninth president, Garry W. Jenkins, was postponed indefinitely.

Jenkins, the college's first Black leader, took office on July 1. In a statement, he confirmed that one college employee had been injured in the shootings but “is expected to make a full recovery,” while two students were nearby but are unharmed.

“Our Lewiston community has suffered a terrible and senseless tragedy in the past 12 hours, one that touches many who live and work here. No matter how many times something like this happens, I find myself at a loss for words,” Jenkins wrote. “And this time, it happened so close to home.”

Jennifer Washburne of Madison, Conn., said her son Robbie, a Bates sophomore, entered lockdown in the campus commons around 8:20 last night, roughly 90 minutes after the shootings began.

He and six classmates sheltered in an unlit room all night, until campus police ushered them back to their dorms about 6:40 Thursday morning, Washburne said.

While the shooter remains at large, classes were also canceled at the University of Maine’s two campuses in Orono and Machias, both at least an hour’s drive from Lewiston. A message on the university's website said only essential workers should report to work Thursday, as the "community confronts the horrible suffering in Lewiston and beyond. We know that these events have shocked our community."

Bowdoin College in Brunswick, 20 miles from Lewiston, canceled in-person classes Thursday. At Colby College in Waterville, an hour north of Lewiston, the school said there would be additional security on campus. Both colleges said all buildings would be locked and would require card access to enter them. The University of New England, with campuses in Portland and Biddeford, was closed Thursday.

A shelter-in-place order remained in effect across the city of Lewiston.

Washburne credited Bates for its response to “an unthinkably epic ordeal," which had students and families on edge overnight. She hopes this latest mass killing will prompt change.

“When is it enough? When is it the time to come together in some manner [to] limit military-grade firearms?” Washburne asked.

This story was originally published by WBUR. It was shared as part of the New England News Collaborative.

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