After Maine’s worst mass shooting, More than 1,000 pay tribute on day of prayer, reflection and hope

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LEWISTON, Maine (AP) — Residents of Lewiston return to work Monday, the morning after coming together to mourn those lost in Maine’s worst mass shooting. They gathered Sunday evening, hugging one another, singing a rousing edition of “Amazing Grace,” and seeking guidance out of these dark days from religious leaders who talked of hope, healing and the power of prayer.

More than 1,000 people attended Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul for a vigil in Lewiston, where days earlier a gunman fatally shot 18 people. Some put their heads in their hands as the names of the people who died in Wednesday’s shooting were read. Others quietly wept.

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Hundreds more watched a livestream of the vigil shown on a huge screen in front of the church. Some held American flags and others had lit candles in cups marked with the names of the dead and injured.

“Remember to seek healing over relief. Relief is temporary. Healing is permanent. Pain is temporary,” the Rev. Gary Bragg of the Southern Baptist Church in Lewiston said. As he spoke, he asked the crowd to welcome their neighbor to the service with the words “I am so glad you are here” and then to ask how they might help them.

The vigil came two days after the body of suspected gunman Robert Card was found. The 40-year-old’s body was discovered in a trailer at a recycling center in Lisbon Falls. Card died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound though it was unclear when, authorities said. Card was also suspected of injuring 13 people in the shooting rampage Wednesday night in Lewiston.

Christian leaders along with a rabbi and an imam spoke of the pain from the shooting but also the healing process and the resilience of the community of 40,000. There was also a speaker from Lewiston’s deaf and hard of hearing community, as four of its members were killed in the shooting.

Kevin Bohlin, who represented the deaf community, signed his message, which was delivered through an ASL interpreter, about how the tragedy hit close to home for the community. Several in attendance could be seen signing to one another throughout the vigil.

The victims are now gone, he said, “but they are directing us to come together and make a difference in this world.”

The Rev. Allen Austin, a senior pastor at Pathways Vineyard Church in Lewiston encouraged the crowd to “stay focused on the things that invite peace into our communities.”

Austin said he hopes that what arises from the tragedy is a “kinder people, a more compassionate people, a more merciful people.”

The Rev. Todd Little from the First United Pentecostal Church of Lewiston spoke at the vigil of a diverse community that now has something new in common after the tragedy: “shared brokenness, worry, fear and loss.”

He also vowed that the community is bigger than the tragedy and will emerge not just “Lewiston Strong” but “Lewiston Stronger.’

“We will not be defined by the tragedies that happened,” he said. “Fear, anxiety and trepidation will not dictate our present or our future.”

Meanwhile, Lewiston was slowly reopening. Lewiston Public Schools released a limited schedule for the week “with room for reflection as we move forward.” Only the staff was returning Monday; students were due back Tuesday. The Lewiston City Hall planned to reopen on Monday afternoon.

Earlier on Sunday, several church services were shaped by the shooting and subsequent lockdown lasting days. At the morning mass at Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, several women wore black veils. A church official said they are raising funds to help those hurt by “the horrible events in our small town.”

“We can see the rays of light in darkness,” said the Rev. Daniel Greenleaf, adding it is for times like this that people have “practiced” their faith.

At Lisbon Falls Baptist Church, arriving church members greeted each other warmly but the atmosphere turned somber when the Rev. Brian Ganong brought up the tragedy. He prayed for those fighting for their lives, those who lost family and friends, first responders and medical workers, and others — including the Card family, who he said had ties to some members of the church.

“It did happen. We may never know the reason why,” he said, encouraging the congregation to seek solace through a higher being.

Authorities recovered a multitude of weapons while searching for Card and believe he had legally purchased his guns, including those recovered in his car and near his body, said Jim Ferguson, the special agent in charge of the Boston office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. He declined to discuss any specifics.

Investigators are still searching for a motive for the massacre, but have increasingly focused on Card’s mental health history.

State Department of Public Safety Commissioner Michael Sauschuck said Card believed “people were talking about him and there may even have been some voices at play.”

Family members of Card told federal investigators that he had recently discussed hearing voices and became more focused on the bowling alley and bar, according to law enforcement officials who spoke with The Associated Press on condition of anonymity in order to discuss details of the investigation.

A stay-at-home order in place during the massive search was lifted Friday afternoon, hours before authorities announced they had found Card’s body. By Saturday, some sense of normalcy returned. Residents went hunting on the opening day of hunting season for deer, and one family handed out buckets of flowers downtown.

On Sunday at Schemengees Bar & Grille, one of the shooting sites, workers in white hazmat suits could be seen methodically cleaning up a staircase. Yellow tape surrounded the site and a small memorial erected nearby featuring colorful balloons, flowers and a poster that read: “Be Strong Lewiston.

Leroy Walker, an Auburn city councilor and father of one of the victims, was greeting people at a trick-or-treat event on Sunday, hosted by an organization he leads. He smiled broadly when the children hugged him but he became emotional when he spoke of his son, Joseph, who normally would’ve joined him at the event.

“It’s been a tough few days, trust me. The heart doesn’t stop bleeding,” he said.

The deadliest shootings in Maine’s history stunned a state of 1.3 million people that has relatively little violent crime and only 29 killings in all of 2022.

Three of the injured remained in critical condition at Central Maine Medical Center, and a fourth was stable, hospital officials said. Another was transported to Massachusetts General Hospital, and the rest were discharged.

The Lewiston shootings were the 36th mass killing in the U.S. this year, according to a database maintained by AP and USA Today in partnership with Northeastern University. The database includes every mass killing since 2006 from all weapons in which four or more people, excluding the offender, were killed within a 24-hour time frame.

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