LEWISTON, Maine (AP) — More than 1,000 people gathered Sunday evening for a vigil to remember those killed and injured in Maine’s worst mass shooting, some putting their heads in their hands as the 18 names of those who died were read. Others quietly wept.
The vigil at the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Lewiston 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 who spoke, since four of its members were killed. Several in attendance signed to one another.
“Remember to seek healing over relief. Relief is temporary. Healing is permanent. Pain is temporary, Healing is permanent,” 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 ask how they might help them.
The Rev Todd Little from the First United Pentecostal Church of Lewiston spoke at the vigil of a diverse community that shares 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. Fear, anxiety and trepidation will not dictate our present or our future,” he said.
Kevin Bohlin, who represented the deaf community, signed his message, which delivered through an ASL interpreter, about how the tragedy hit close to home for the community.
The victims are now gone, he said, “but they are directing us to come together and make a difference in this word.”
Earlier in the day, several church services were shaped by the shooting and subsequent lockdown that lasted several days. A the morning mass for Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, several women wore black veils in the cavernous sanctuary. A church official said they are raising funds to help shooting victims and others 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.
“We cannot fix this, but then again human beings are not machines to be fixed,” Greenleaf added.
At Lisbon Falls Baptist Church, arriving church members warmly greeted each other 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 during their search 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 disclose specifics like makes and models and how exactly many guns were found.
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 had paranoia. Card believed “people were talking about him and there may even have been some voices at play,” Sauschuck said.
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 to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity in order to discuss details of the investigation.
For many residents, Sunday was a day to reflect, mourn and, for some, to take the first tentative steps toward normalcy in Lewiston, a city of 37,000. 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 at the Maine Recycling Corp.
On Sunday, some went hunting on the opening day of firearm season for deer, and one family handed out buckets of flowers in downtown. Others gathered at a makeshift memorial to the victims down the street from the bar targeted by Card.
And there were reminders of the shooting still.
Over 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 had emerged near the bar, featuring colorful balloons, flowers and a poster that read: “Be Strong Lewiston.”
Parishioners from a Westbrook, Maine, church also came to the site to pay their respects to the victims. They held signs honor those killed or injured and sang church hymns before a memorial featuring flowers, several white crosses and carved pumpkins.
“What happened three or four days ago is very, very painful. When we heard that, we decided to come up from here, sing and share this moment,” said Remy Kazengu, a deacon at the New Apostolic Church in Portland, Maine, some of whose parishioners live in Lewiston and knew some of the shooting victims.
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. “I miss him every minute. I miss him more every day.”
The deadliest shootings in Maine history stunned a state of 1.3 million people that has relatively little violent crime and had 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 patient was transported to Massachusetts General Hospital, and the rest were discharged.
The Lewiston shootings were the 36th mass killing in the United States 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.