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Lewiston mourns — and looks for a way forward — at vigil for mass shooting victims

At the OneLewiston Community Vigil, attendees listen to speakers in the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Lewiston, Maine, on Sunday, Oct. 29, 2023. (Raquel C. Zaldívar/New England News Collaborative)
Raquel C. Zaldívar
/
New England News Collaborative
At the OneLewiston Community Vigil, attendees listen to speakers in the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Lewiston, Maine, on Oct. 29, 2023.

Well over 1,000 people converged at the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Lewiston last night for a vigil to remember the 18 people killed last week in the deadliest mass shooting in the U.S. this year.

It was standing room only in the 1,500-seat Basilica, where those who were able to get inside packed into pews, hugged and cried. Hundreds more spilled outside and held candles to honor the family, friends, and co-workers who lost their lives in the shootings at a bowling alley and a bar last Wednesday. One by one, faith leaders urged the community to seek healing through mutual support.

"Please Lewiston. Do not lose hope," said Rev. Allen Austin of Pathway Vineyard church in Lewiston.

Austin urged that the violence not be allowed to divide the community, and offered two pieces of advice.

At the OneLewiston Community Vigil, Kevin Bohlin, a member of the deaf community, delivers remarks in American Sign Language in the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Lewiston, Maine, on Sunday, Oct. 29, 2023. (Raquel C. Zaldívar/New England News Collaborative)
Raquel C. Zaldívar
/
New England News Collaborative
At the OneLewiston Community Vigil, Kevin Bohlin, a member of the deaf community, delivers remarks in American Sign Language in the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Lewiston, Maine, on Sunday, Oct. 29, 2023. (Raquel C. Zaldívar/New England News Collaborative)

"That would be to be a people who listen well, and a people who love well," he said.

A leader in the deaf community, Kevin Bohlin, also spoke. Through an interpreter, he read the names of the four deaf men who were killed. Then, he demonstrated the American Sign Language hand shape for "I love you."

At the OneLewiston Community Vigil, attendees sign “I love you” as Kevin Bohlin, a member of the deaf community, delivers remarks in American Sign Language in the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Lewiston, Maine, on Sunday, Oct. 29, 2023. (Raquel C. Zaldívar/New England News Collaborative)
Raquel C. Zaldívar
/
New England News Collaborative
Attendees sign “I love you” as Kevin Bohlin, a member of the deaf community, delivers remarks in American Sign Language at the OneLewiston Community Vigil.

"This is a very special sign culturally for members of the deaf community, and I'm asking everyone here today if you could please join me in signing it," Bohlin said. "Look around you, and see the people in front of you and behind you. Next to you. Share this sign."

The vigil was one of several that were held over the weekend, the first opportunities for people to come together after two days of lockdown that lifted late Friday night. Many said it was an important step toward healing after the shootings at Schemengees Bar and Grille and Sparetime Recreation.

An attendee at the OneLewiston Community Vigil in the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Lewiston, Maine, on Sunday, Oct. 29, 2023. (Raquel C. Zaldívar/New England News Collaborative)
Raquel C. Zaldívar
/
New England News Collaborative
An attendee at the OneLewiston Community Vigil in the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Lewiston, Maine, on Sunday, Oct. 29, 2023. (Raquel C. Zaldívar/New England News Collaborative)

"I lost a lot of friends there. It hurts a lot," said Jim Morin of Sabattus. He said he knew the people killed at the bowling alley, and that being with other community members has helped.

"I feel much closer to all these people tonight. I really do," he said.

Victoria Dunham of Lewiston said she came to help gain a sense of normalcy for her two elementary-aged children.

Attendees at the OneLewiston Community Vigil in the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Lewiston, Maine, on Sunday, Oct. 29, 2023. (Raquel C. Zaldívar/New England News Collaborative)
Raquel C. Zaldívar
/
New England News Collaborative
Attendees at the OneLewiston Community Vigil in the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Lewiston, Maine, on Sunday, Oct. 29, 2023. (Raquel C. Zaldívar/New England News Collaborative)

"Even if you aren't someone who was directly impacted, or knew someone directly, that it's really important to still connect and show your support because we are a community," she said.

Rachel Nadeau, a special education teacher at Lewiston High School, attended the ceremony with her husband. With schools closed since the shooting, Nadeau said it has been hard not to be able to see her students.

"I'm really feeling like I need need to see my kids," she said. "We've been away from them, and I just need to know how they are."

The overflow crowd outside the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Lewiston, Maine, on Sunday, Oct. 29, 2023.
Susan Sharon
/
Maine Public
The overflow crowd outside the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Lewiston, Maine, on Sunday, Oct. 29, 2023.

Nadeau said her family has been in Lewiston for over a hundred years, and she never thought something like this could happen here. Even though it's hard to not still feel sad, she said, she left the vigil feeling encouraged by the show of community.

The vigil also drew people beyond Greater Lewiston's borders.

"I haven't been able to cry. I've been so mad," said Kimberly Phinney of Augusta, who said she grew up in Lewiston. "This is where my heritage is. This is where I grew up. And someone attacked it."

The overflow crowd outside the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Lewiston, Maine, on Sunday, Oct. 29, 2023.
Susan Sharon
/
Maine Public
The overflow crowd outside the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Lewiston, Maine, on Sunday, Oct. 29, 2023.

Phinney was among people in the crowd who said they want to see stricter gun laws. And while that's a debate that is likely to grow in volume in the coming weeks, the focus for now is on healing.

Lewiston native Tom Caron, who is now a TV sportscaster in Boston, concluded the vigil.

"Together we will get through this," Caron said. "Together we will be stronger. And together we will remain as the sign says, 'hopeful,' and remember you are not alone the people of Lewiston Auburn will always be with you and we will remain hopeful."

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