Kids return to school, plan to trick-or-treat as Maine community starts to heal from mass shooting


LEWISTON, Maine (AP) — Children returned to schools and planned to go trick-or-treating Tuesday evening as the community of Lewiston tried to return to normal after sheltering indoors for days while authorities hunted for the man responsible for the deadliest mass shooting in Maine’s history.

Hundreds of students were back in class at Lewiston High School, petting therapy dogs and signing a large banner that read “Lewiston Strong” — the community’s new motto. Days earlier, the campus had been transformed into a law enforcement command post with three helicopters utilizing the athletic fields and 300 vehicles filling the parking lot.

“Today’s going to be hard,” said Superintendent Jake Langlais. “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 lost a friend, and his mom’s friend was shot four times but survived.

He’s glad to be back at school but also worried about safety. He said everyone at school will “try to act like everything is fine, but it’s not.”

“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 in Lewiston. That sparked a massive search on land and water for 40-year-old Robert Card. Police and other authorities issued a shelter-in-place order for residents while trying to track down the suspected shooter, who was found dead Friday.

Heather Hunter, a city administrator in Lewiston, said it was heartening to see steps toward normalcy but she acknowledged the community has a long way to go.

“It’s similar to COVID. We’re adjusting to a new normal,” she said. “There’s no playbook for this.”

Peter Geiger, whose Lewiston-based business publishes the Farmers’ Almanac, continued his unique Halloween tradition: Each year, hundreds of kids pay a visit to get king-sized candy bars, as long as they know the “secret” password, which this year was “Lewiston Strong.” The trick-or-treat event dates back a quarter century.

“I hurt as much as anyone else. For all of us there’s a loss,” he said. “But I’m not going to let somebody undo a fun night for kids and families. It’s good for the kids. It’s good for the community. And it’s good for me, especially with all that’s going on.”

High school senior Calista Karas said students still have a lot to process. Sheltering at home was frightening, she said. And on the day of the shootings, she couldn’t immediately get ahold of her mother, who was at work.

“I just couldn’t believe something like this would happen here — to us,” Karas said. “And I know that sounds like detached, kind of like, ‘Oh, we wouldn’t be affected.’ But you never think it’s going to happen to you when it happens.”

When she walked through the school doors on Tuesday, she felt her stomach drop a bit.

“Not because I felt unsafe,” she said. “But because I felt like, what’s going to happen from here on out?”

A lot people, including her, don’t feel like celebrating Halloween, she said.

“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, depending on their proximity to deadly rampage.

“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.”

Five months before the shooting, Card’s family alerted the local sheriff that they were becoming concerned about his deteriorating mental health while he had access to firearms, authorities said Monday.

Card underwent a mental health evaluation this summer after accusing soldiers of calling him a pedophile, shoving one and locking himself in his room during training in New York, officials said. A bulletin sent to police shortly after last week’s attack said Card had been committed to a mental health facility for two weeks after “hearing voices and threats to shoot up” a military base.

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