Children returned to school Tuesday and planned to trick-or-treat in the evening after spending days locked in their homes while authorities combed the area 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.
Jayden Sands, a 15-year-old sophomore, said one of his coaches lost four friends, one of his best friends lost a friend, and his mom’s friend got shot four times but survived.
He said everyone at school will “try to act like everything is fine, but it’s not.”
“A lot of people 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, who was found dead Friday. Police and other authorities issued a shelter-in-place order for residents during the massive search on land and water.
Calista Karas, a senior a Lewiston High, said returning students still have a lot to process. Karas was frightened was sheltering at home and couldn’t immediately reach her mother, who was at work, when the shootings happened.
“You know, 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 gonna happen to you when it happens, you know?”
When she walked through the school doors on Tuesday, Karas said 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? I was really unsure and uncertain of what was going to happen and how people would react. It was a weird experience to walk though school and see… life going on.”
Superintendent Jake Langlais 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.