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Hundreds turn out for Lewiston vigil marking six months since mass shootings

About 300 people turned out on Thursday to mark the six-month anniversary of the Lewiston shootings.
Susan Sharon
/
Maine Public
About 300 people turned out on Thursday to mark the six-month anniversary of the Lewiston shootings.

Nearly 300 people turned out Thursday night at the Simard Payne Memorial Park in Lewiston to mark the six-month anniversary of the worst mass shootings in Maine history.

The event opened with a song playing from loudspeakers in front of 18 empty chairs to represent the lives lost at a bowling alley and bar last October.

Staff from the Lewiston Resiliency Center passed out plastic candles, held moments of silence and read the names of the those killed as first responders, victims' family members and survivors — many wearing blue and yellow Lewiston Strong sweatshirts — looked on.

Advocate Navigator Joanna Stokinger told the crowd that no one affected by the tragedy will be forgotten, including those who were present but not physically injured.

Eighteen empty chairs in Simard Payne Memorial Park in Lewiston, where a ceremony to mark the six-month anniversary of the worst mass shooting in Maine history was held Thursday night.
Susan Sharon
/
Maine Public
Eighteen empty chairs in Simard Payne Memorial Park in Lewiston, where a ceremony to mark the six-month anniversary of the worst mass shooting in Maine history was held Thursday night.

"You are not overlooked. We see you and we see that you carry trauma and horrors that only those that share that commonality with you can even begin to grasp the psychological injuries that you endure," she said.

The sixth-month anniversary of the shootings coincides with National Crime Victims' Rights Week and the theme this year is: "How would you help?" Stokinger urged those in attendance to help victims and survivors by learning about grief and trauma.

"Take the trainings, the webinars, the classes," she said. "Listen to survivors without judgment."

Tracey Walker lost her husband, Joe, in the shootings at Schemengees Bar and Grille. She says she feels supported by the community and events like this one.

After the ceremony, many walked to a footbridge to toss flower petals into the Androscoggin River. Jamie Jordan (right) and her three kids were at the Just in Time bowling alley the night of the shooting.
Susan Sharon
/
Maine Public
After the ceremony, many walked to a footbridge to toss flower petals into the Androscoggin River. Jamie Jordan (right) and her three kids were at the Just in Time bowling alley the night of the shooting.

"It's hard but it's nice to know that the community is still sticking together and that we help each other," Walker said. "We're there for each other and we're all in this together. Whether it's a victim or injured, we're all together."

Walker says she attends free therapy sessions at the Resiliency Center twice a week and regularly brings her grandchildren. Joe was a big part of their lives, she says, and the sessions have helped them.

Counseling remains available at the center to anyone in the community who was affected by the shootings and wants it.

Next week the owners of the Just in Time Recreation Center plan to reopen the bowling alley. A community celebration is planned to mark that milestone on Friday, May 3.