Maine flower shop owner Jayne Bergeron braved a shelter-in-place order Friday morning in Lewiston to open briefly so she could provide services for a funeral unrelated to the massacre in her town – which left 18 dead and more than a dozen injured when an Army reservist opened fire at a bowling alley and a bar Wednesday.
She knows more funerals are coming.
‘It’s been very, very hard,” Ms Bergeron, 55, told The Independent. “I know people that were there in the bars that it happened at that made it out. Some of them didn’t.”
The lifelong Lewiston resident was speaking less than 48 hours after suspect Robert Card opened fire at two locations in Maine’s second-largest city, mowing down patrons of a bowling alley and a bar located just over four miles apart.
“It’s devastating,” said Ms Bergeron, who personally knew three of the victims killed. “It’s not a place where you think that stuff like this happens.”
Authorities announced Card, a 40-year-old Army reservist who’d been battling mental health issues, as a suspect before appealing for any information about him and issuing a shelter in place order. Supermarkets, locksmiths and even fast food drive-thrus – including New England staple Dunkin Donuts – were all shuttered as local, state and federal authorities hunted for the suspect.
“I was actually scared just coming to work,” Ms Bergeron said.
Most businesses in Lewiston and Auburn, the city across the river, remained closed on Friday; the streets were deserted as road signs declared “Lewiston Strong” and “Shelter In Place.” Roads were blocked off leading to the two shooting sites, located just over four miles from each other. Flags were at half mast.
Roy’s All Steak Hamburgers reopened Friday morning after closing on Thursday, one of the few eateries hosting a steady stream of customers as the city crept along in shock and fear.
“We have a lot of the same people that come in every day, so with us not being here yesterday, I think this coming in today, I felt they felt a little comfort,” said Cindy Roy, whose husband’s family has run the diner for decades.
The tight-knit communities of Lewiston and neighboring Auburn were reeling, she said, not only because the suspect remained on the loose but also because “everyone’s got a story – we each know someone.”
“One of my good friends, her son was shot,” she said. “Luckily he’s okay, but we all know someone that has been affected,” she added, noting that locals were checking on each other through texting, calls and social media.
Outside of Roy’s, 81-year-old Linda Parker told The Independent that her trip to the diner was one of the few outings she’d dare take since the violence unravelled.
Holding a drink tightly and still in shock, Ms Parker said she never believed she’d live to see her county become the epicentre of America’s latest mass shooting. That horror was was something that happened to other communities, in big cities, she said, not in the semi-rural dormant town where she’s lived her whole life.
“My niece called me and I just thought it was some type of a prank call,” she recalled. “I never in my life thought this would happen.”
Ms Parker said everyone she knew was in a similar state of fear. But as the search concentrated in the Lisbon area of the Androscoggin River, some locals are starting to gather at the seldom places that have opened, such as Roy’s, trying to find some sense of community as they deal with grief in the fallout of the shooting.
It’s almost like our 9/11
“Everything is just quiet. It is scary. I made sure my windows, doors were locked, especially at nighttime. And even at daytime, you’re looking out your window,” Ms Parker said.
The rampage that left at least 18 people dead is the worst mass killing in Maine’s history. Last year, the Pine Tree State reported only 29 homicides.
“It’s almost like our 9/11,” Ms Parker said.