‘One Lewiston’: Community gathers to mourn victims of mass shooting
More than 1000 people filled the pews and streets surrounding the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Lewiston
Rev. Sarah Gillespie, hospice chaplain of Androscoggin Home Healthcare and Hospice, read the names of those killed. After each name, a bell rang. (Emma Davis/Maine Morning Star)
There is love, still.
That was the message conveyed by speakers during the One Lewiston vigil Sunday night to mourn the lives of the 18 people killed, and pray for the 13 others wounded, in a mass shooting Wednesday in Maine’s second largest city.
How you can help:
Healing Together online resource
Launched by the Mills administration to identify places accepting financial donations as well as mental health resources from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to support anyone affected by the violence in Lewiston who may be struggling.
Maine Community Foundation
For victims and families, and their related funeral and medical expenses, the Maine Community Foundation has created the Lewiston Auburn Area Response Fund. They are working directly with those impacted and the hospital to address needs, under the guidance of a local steering committee.
United Way Androscoggin County
United Way Androscoggin County is supporting organizations responding to mental health needs and direct service to the community.
Credit Unions’ Campaign for Ending Hunger
Local credit unions are working together and funds will be used to feed first responders and other community organizations helping to get food in the hands of those in need.
Androscoggin Bank’s Community Fund
Androscoggin Bank is working with the City of Lewiston to receive direct donations and ensure their distribution to needs related to this tragedy.
More than a thousand people filled the pews and streets surrounding the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Lewiston to come together and listen to messages of hope and resilience from faith leaders and community members.
Rev. Sarah Gillespie, hospice chaplain of Androscoggin Home Healthcare and Hospice, read the names of those killed. After each name, a bell rang.
They are Ronald G. Morin, Peyton Brewer-Ross, Joshua Seal, Bryan MacFarlane, Joseph Lawrence Walker, Arthur Fred Strout, Maxx Hathaway, Stephen Vozzella, Thomas Ryan Conrad, Michael Deslauriers II, Jason Adam Walker, Tricia Asselin, William Young, Aaron Young, Robert Violette, Lucille Violette, William Frank Brackett and Keith Macneir.
“We gather together this evening because there is love still in this place,” Gillespie said. “A love that cannot be gunned down, a love that cannot be threatened or terrorized, a love that is stronger than anything that divides us. A love beyond words for Lewiston, our home.”
Sunday’s event comes after the end of a two-day search for the shooting suspect, Robert Card of Bowdoin, who police found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound late Friday.
At the vigil, Tom Caron, a Lewiston native and Boston Red Sox announcer, said the community of Lewiston will endure, despite the tragedy of Wednesday’s shooting.
“Together we will get through this. Together we will be stronger, together we will remain, as the sign says, hopeful,” he said, referring to the iconic Lewiston art piece by artist Charlie Hewitt.
Other speakers at the event included the Most Reverend Robert Deeley, Bishop of Portland, who read a message of condolence from Pope Francis, along with the Rev. Todd Little of the First United Pentecostal Church in Lewiston, who called the event Sunday the first step in the healing process after the shooting.
Attendees also heard from other faith leaders, including Imam Salah of the Lewiston-Auburn Islamic Center, who told those in the audience to stand together and promote unity.
Rabbi Sruli Dresdner of the Temple Shalom Synagogue Center encouraged attendees not to turn away from their emotions. “Let us not shy away from that pain,” he said.
Kevin Bohlin, a deaf community leader, remembered the four members of that community killed during Wednesday’s violence: William Brackett, Bryan MacFarlane, Joshua Seal and Stephen Vozzella.
“Even in the darkest times, our community’s strength will shine though,” he said, asking those in attendance to join him in doing the American Sign Language gesture for “I love you.”
In his speech, Rev. Allen Austin of Pathway Vineyard asked Mainers to not let division creep into their ranks.
“I would invite us in the days ahead to stay focused on two things: that would be to be a people who listen well and a people who love well,” he said.
K9 First Responders, a mental health service based out of Milford, Connecticut, provided support starting at noon Sunday for people attending the vigil. The organization travels to traumatic scenes to help victims cope with tragedy, including the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School and the Boston Marathon bombing. Executive director Brad Cole said the dog handlers are trained to provide services such as psychological first aid, post traumatic stress management and mental health first aid.
Members of the local community were the backbone of Sunday’s event. Along with those who volunteered their time, local businesses donated food, drinks and supplies for the vigil. Many of the volunteers Sunday had direct connections to victims of the shooting, and several had loved ones still in critical care.
Auburn resident Bonny C., who attended the vigil with her five children, emphasized the need to remember the injured and those who witnessed the shooting.
“Everyone knows someone who was hurt,” she said. “It doesn’t end here.”
Kevin Boilard, who works with a local nonprofit food pantry, spoke to the significance of being “able to come together again under one roof.”
Rita Tardif-Morin, who got married in the same church where the event was held, said she wanted to mourn with her people, her community.
Tardif-Morin said even when she left Lewiston, where she was raised, to live in Massachusetts, she always wanted to return.
“My heart stayed here and so did my children’s hearts,” she said.
“This is still home.”
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