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Lewiston bowling alley reopens 6 months after mass shooting

A major milestone was reached today in Lewiston, Maine's ongoing recovery from a mass shootings that killed 18 and wounded more than 13 others at a bowling alley and bar last October. Unlike some businesses that are demolished or shutter after similar traumatic events, the bowling alley reopened and hundreds of people turned out to show their support.

There were hugs and tears and counselors on hand as owners Justin and Samantha Juray welcomed everyone to the newly refurbished bowling alley. Memorials to those who are lost on October 25 are on the walls and tables.

John Robinson and his 18-year-old son Colin wasted no time getting back into the swing of things with bowling practice. John is a volunteer bowling coach who said they wanted to be here to honor their friends who were killed.

"We lost one of our youth coaches. Coach Bob was a tremendous guy and a very integral part of our youth bowling community,” Robinson said.

They also lost Bob Violette's wife, Lucy, and 14-year-old Aaron Young, a member of the youth bowling league. Colin and his mom, Jen, were here the night of the shootings. Jen's not ready to come back. And Robinson said his autistic son continues to struggle with the tragedy. But when he bowls he makes a point of remembering those who are lost.

“When he bowls in competition, we have a Lewiston Strong wristband and every time he throws a striker, he holds that up.”

Everyone has a different way of processing their grief and trauma from the shootings. For manager Tom Giberti, the return to work has come in stages. The first time he came back was just after he was released from the hospital. He'd been shot in both legs, but not before he was able to get multiple children to safety through a back door.

"The hero word was thrown out there and I just don't accept that. I hate that word. I don't feel myself in it. I was glad I was at the right place at the right time, I was here for a reason,” Giberti said.

While he was recovering, he said the hardest part was not being able to attend his friends and co-workers funerals. But he said he's grateful to be back at work to see the transformation that's taken place.

“Because it's been a big change here, so that's been really nice to see and be able to kind of let go and I think that's what today's gonna do, it's gonna close one door, open the next one to be able to move on,” he said.

At the ribbon cutting ceremony attended by state and local dignitaries, owners, Justin and Samantha Juray said they couldn't have gotten here alone.

“I just want to thank everybody for coming here and supporting us and for supporting us through the last six months and encouraging us to reopen back up. If we didn't have all of you then we definitely wouldn't have been able to open our doors back up,” Samantha Juray said.

Justin Juray has previously said that they would not let the tragedy define them. And today he and hundreds of others showed that they will not.

An earlier version of this story was written by Digital News Reporter Esta Pratt-Kielley.