PORTLAND, Maine (WPRI) — Reverend Amanda Gerken-Nelson is still coming to terms with what happened not far from her church in Yarmouth, Maine.
The Attleboro native, who’s lived in Portland for eight years, tells 12 News “a veil of grief and fear” has shrouded the entire state after a U.S. Army reservist opened fire at a bowling alley and bar in nearby Lewiston.
“It’s really hard to experience in a state that touts itself as a safe place to be,” she said.
The suspect’s shooting rampage left 18 dead and another 13 wounded. The massive manhunt for the suspect, identified by authorities as 40-year-old Robert Card, has been ongoing for more than 24 hours.
“[There’s] a lot of anger, because some of these things feel preventable,” Gerken-Nelson said. “[There’s] a lot of grief and heartfelt concern for the families that have been so deeply impacted.”
Gerken-Nelson said it is devastating that this tragedy happened so close to home. She said several members of her congregation live in Lewiston or have family and friends who are located nearby.
“My family and I have recognized that using phrases like, ‘It won’t happen here’ and ‘This could never happen in our neighborhood’ … We can’t say those things,” she said. “I’m utterly distraught that it did [happen here].”
Though she’s mourning alongside the rest of the state, Gerken-Nelson believes it’s the spirit of Maine that will help them pull through.
“Those values of community and support are manifesting across Lewiston and the state,” she said. “It will be the balm to the wound of what this has been for us. It’s going to be what helps hold the state together and our people together.”