WASHINGTON — Arthur Barnard and Kristy Strout walked up the marble steps of the Rayburn House Office Building around 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday. Just five hours earlier, they had never been to the nation’s capital, never ridden the Metro. They had never been on a plane.

As they entered the cafeteria of the Congressional office building where Reps. Jared Golden, Chellie Pingree and more than 400 other congressional representatives have offices, they were greeted by Po Murray and David Stowe, leaders in the Newtown Action Alliance, an organization advocating to change gun laws.

The group was handing out letters to representatives. Students from Newtown High School were there, many of them were first graders at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012 when 20 of their classmates and six staff were killed.

“I am so sorry,” Kristin Song said as she hugged Barnard and Strout. Her son Ethan died in an accidental shooting at a friend’s house.

Barnard and Strout are the father and wife of Arthur “Artie” Strout, one of the 18 people who were killed on Oct. 25 in the worst mass shooting in Maine history.

He was playing billiards when Robert Card came into Schemengees Bar & Grille and killed eight people. Artie, who was 42, met his wife 16 years ago. Together they had a blended family of five kids: Marcus, Mylo, Summer, Logan and Brianna.


Barnard and Strout came to the nation’s capital this week to meet with families of victims from other mass shootings. They plan to meet with Maine’s congressional delegation and add their voices to the long-standing chorus pleading for tougher federal gun control legislation.

Arthur Barnard looks up at a building in Washington on Tuesday. Barnard is the father of Arthur Strout, one of 18 people killed in the Oct. 25 mass shooting in Lewiston. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer


The trip was a big one for Barnard and Strout. Catching their first flight was no small feat. Strout has never spent more than a night away from her kids.

But this trip is for Artie.

They thought it would be therapeutic.

The two of them drove to a Boston suburb on Monday night where Barnard had booked a room at a Crowne Plaza hotel – at a discounted rate through his job at the Holiday Inn in Portland – so they could be closer to Boston Logan International Airport for their early morning flight.


Once in the city, Barnard left the hotel for about an hour to go to Staples to print out and frame a photo of Artie. He wanted to bring it to Washington with him.

That night at dinner, they talked about Artie. How he had a big, infectious goofy giggle. How he always wore an elf hat on Christmas morning to pass out gifts to the kids. How he didn’t mince words; you never had to guess what he was thinking.

A framed photo of Arthur Strout sits on his father Arthur Barnard’s hotel room bed in Woburn, Mass., on Monday. Strout was one of 18 people killed in the Oct. 25 mass shooting in Lewiston. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

All through dinner, Artie’s newly printed, framed portrait sat beside Barnard at the table. It was almost like he was dining with them.

The conversation quickly turned to gun control. Interspersed with smiles and memories of Artie were moments of anger over how he died and how preventable the tragedy was.

“You have to register a car, but not a gun. How is that possible?” said Barnard. He brings this up a lot.

He’s thinking of retiring so he can push for stronger gun control legislation full time. Strout wants to get her kids involved. She says her 14-year-old daughter has strong feelings about gun control, too.


“It hurts her to know how her dad died. And she’ll tell me, like, ‘Mom I’m not mad at (Robert Card’s) family, I’m mad at the laws,’ ” said Strout.

“There has to be some right combination of words and people to make change. Ultimately, I just hope I’m a part of that combination,” said Barnard.

They were back in their hotel room by 8 p.m. hoping to get a good night’s sleep.

Their flight didn’t leave until 10 a.m., but they were on their way to the airport by 6:30. Strout said her kids were a little nervous about her flying.

“My son is especially nervous. Ever since what happened with Arthur he just always thinks the worst will happen. He said, ‘Mom, what if you get in a plane crash?’ But I told him, ‘Baby, you can’t think like that.’ ”

This all started last week when Barnard went to the Maine Resiliency Center in Lewiston. He was talking to workers from the Red Cross who told him about someone named Fred Guttenberg. The next morning he Googled him.


Guttenberg’s daughter Jamie died in the Parkland (Florida) High School shooting in 2018 and ever since he’s become an activist for federal gun control. Barnard messaged Guttenberg on Facebook and asked how he could get involved.

Guttenberg responded within 10 minutes with an invitation to an event in Washington for families of victims of gun violence. Barnard started making travel plans immediately.

Arthur Barnard, Po Murray and Kristy Strout walk past the Capitol on their way back to their hotel after meeting at the Rayburn House Office Building on Tuesday. The Sandy Hook shooter was Murray’s neighbor and she now advocates for gun law reform with the Newtown Action Alliance. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

By Tuesday morning, when Barnard and Strout walked into a nearly empty airport, wearing navy blue sweatshirts with Artie’s face printed on the back, Barnard gripped a thick packet of papers with their itinerary typed out on it.

When it was time to board, the two leaned into each other. They were both a little nervous. Sitting in a window seat, Strout snapped photos of the view for her kids.

“This is like Greyhound at its best,” Barnard typed into a Facebook post before takeoff. The plane rose above the clouds into a crisp blue sky and the pair sipped Pepsi by the time the flight hit cruising altitude. They were giddy.

“It’s nice to have something to smile about,” said Strout. They said it reminded them a bit of a roller coaster, but much smoother.


A few minutes later though, the mood had changed.

“It was nice to feel excited about something,” she said, “but then I remember why we’re on this flight.”


Since his death, Strout has had access to her husband’s Facebook messages. Strout told Barnard on the plane that every night Artie’s mom sends a message to her dead son. “Goodnight Artie, I love you,” she writes.

Barnard was never married to Artie’s mom, and although the two have been talking more since his death, Barnard had no idea about the messages. He broke down crying as Strout told him.

Arthur Barnard begins to cry on his flight. His daughter-in-law had told him about how his son’s mom sends messages to his Facebook page every night saying she loves him. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

He has his own ritual. The first thing he does when he wakes up is speak into the empty bedroom air, “Good morning, Artie. I love you.”


“Finding that out just breaks me,” he said wiping away tears as Strout gripped his hand. “It’s a trigger, and I’m sure there will be so many more on this trip.”

A few other Maine families are planning to join Barnard and Strout in Washington on Thursday for meetings with the delegation: Leroy Walker and Tracey Walker, the father and wife of Joe Walker; Elizabeth Seal, the wife of Joshua Seal; and Alan Nickerson, who was shot at Schemengees and survived.

The trip has largely been organized by attorneys Travis Brennan and Ben Gideon, who are representing many of the victims and their families.

Brennan said in a statement this week that the families plan to press Maine’s congressional delegation to pursue an independent investigation by the U.S. Army’s Inspector General.

Card was in an Army Reserve unit in Saco, where his squadmates expressed serious concerns to local police that he was having psychotic episodes and hearing voices. He later spent two weeks in a psychiatric hospital in New York. His supervisor told police he never sought further treatment.



After a few hiccups, Barnard and Strout found their way to the metro station near the Capitol building. They emerged from a string of escalators up into the light. Sirens were blaring. Maybe from a presidential motorcade, maybe just police responding to a call, but Barnard and Strout could only think of one thing.

“The last time I heard sirens like that it was the night of the shooting,” said Strout. Barnard nodded in agreement. He called his daughter, Jesse Merrill, who had helped him arrange his travel.

Kristy Strout and Arthur Barnard ride the Metro into Washington from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport on Tuesday. Strout, the wife of Arthur Strout, one of 18 people killed in the Oct. 25 mass shooting in Lewiston, and Barnard, Arthur Strout’s father, were headed to an event for families of victims of gun violence. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

“Hey,” he said into the phone. “I love you so damn much.” Then he hung up.

Their first day in Washington passed in a haze. The pair checked into a hip downtown hotel that Guttenberg had arranged for them. They ate lunch at the hotel bar – the kind of place that makes their BLTs with tomato marmalade and arugula. They walked across the national mall snapping photos of the towering marble columns in front of the Supreme Court.

“This will make my kids’ day,” said Strout.

They spent a little more than an hour that afternoon in the cafeteria of the Congressional offices with the other activists. Strout said it made her feel less alone to talk to other people whose lives were inextricably changed by gun violence.


She and Song, the mother from Connecticut, talked about the difficult decision they both faced: whether or not to view their loved one’s body. They each said they made that decision while delirious with grief.

“Ethan was shot in the head,” said Song. “So my husband really tried to dissuade me from going to see him. I still question if I should have gone in.”

“Arthur was shot a bunch of times,” said Strout. “I just couldn’t bear to see him that way, so I didn’t go either.”

Kristy Strout hugs Kristin Song after speaking together in the cafeteria of the Rayburn House Office Building on Tuesday. Song is an activist who lost her son in an accidental shooting. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

They talked about getting involved in activism.

“They want you to go away,” said Song. “But I never will.”

“This is just the start,” said Strout.

Barnard and Strout left just before 5 p.m. They crossed the National Mall together as dusk fell, the marble of the Capitol was turning grey in the fading light.

“Arthur would have loved that Christmas tree,” said Strout, pointing to a 63-foot spruce towering over the lawn. It was immaculately decorated with giant bulbs and tinsel and what looked like handmade ornaments. “He would have wanted to stand next to it and take a picture probably.”

On Wednesday, Strout and Barnard will spend the day at St. Marks Episcopal Church, where they will meet with other families and attend a vigil for victims of gun violence.

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