There are days when I just can’t bring myself to believe it. 

It’s been nearly two months and yet I still have trouble accepting what went down here in Lewiston on the black night of Oct. 25. 

Some days I stand at the edge of the downtown and just stare out over the city. Yet seeing all the prosaic landmarks in their familiar locations only deepens that sense of unreality. 

Really? It really happened here? 

I drive around and see the big bluebird mural painted on the side of a Main Street building. There’s the Hopeful sign, the old Sun Journal building, the storefronts along Lisbon Street twinkling in the early evening dark. There’s Kennedy Park, mundane and familiar and beyond it, the spires of the churches reaching for the sky. 

Come on. Really? In Lewiston?


There are times when I can convince myself, if only for fleeting seconds, that the grim affair was nothing more than a horrid nightmare; something merely imagined in a half-waking fever dream. 

Am I alone in these strange fugues of denial? Probably, not, I tell myself. The thought that 18 people perished over the course of just minutes here is almost too much for the mind to manage. We can believe it easily enough when it happens somewhere else, sure. 

But in Lewiston? Our Lewiston? 

The night it happened, I was on the first day of my yearly Halloween vacation. I was out of town, doing things wholly unrelated to the news business, when my phone started buzzing like a beehive in my pocket. A shooting, these tipsters told me, not at one location but possibly at several. 

The numbers these people threw at me seemed nonsensical. Four dead at the first location, they said. No, not four, eight, or 10 or maybe more. 

The numbers kept climbing and though I had no reason to doubt the dozen or so people who were feeding me this information, those first waves of disbelief — of unreality — began to pour over me. 


A monstrosity like that? In Lewiston? Come on… 

I raced back to Lewiston that night, but being here didn’t make the reality of it any more tangible; any easier to fit inside my head where breaking news can usually be organized in a sane and logical way. 

After 30 years of covering crime in Lewiston, I was finally stunned by something. Stunned to the point of disbelief, a sensation that keeps returning to me in waves. 

There are times when I actively expect someone to shake my shoulder and rouse me from this savage dream. And when that doesn’t happen, I stand dumbfounded; almost pulverized by the reality of it. 

Really? In Lewiston. 

I wonder if it sometimes feels that way to people who lost loved ones in the shooting, too. If it does, they don’t have the luxury of indulging in the fantasy for long. 


I was at the funeral for one of the slain and even there was a sense of absolute unreality. Yet, that was a real body lying lifeless within the coffin. That was a real man weeping over the box that contained the remains of his boy. 

It may feel like it was all a terrible nightmare from time to time, sure. But the feeling will never last. Reality will always come home to us, no matter how hard we try to shoo it away. 

In the days and nights immediately following those ghastly events, the specter of it was all over the place. You could ride around Lewiston and parts of Auburn in the middle of the day and find absolutely nothing open. Not a box store, not a supermarket, not even the little corner variety stores that never seem to close. All was dark, and still as the search for the boogeyman ground on and on. There was a temptation to call all that darkness surreal when in fact, surreal isn’t strong enough a word. 

And if the darkness and shuttered storefronts weren’t enough, we had big media crawling all over the city like a plague of locusts, making the downtown appear like the set of a movie. 

I used to get such a thrill out of seeing our hometown Lewiston on those occasions when it made national news for this thing or that. But not this time. This time, I loathed the talking heads from all the big stations and cringed as they laid our city bare for all to see. I loathed whatever powers of darkness had cursed us with this horror and all the attention it brought. 

I don’t know why I’m telling you all this. I imagine everyone has his own way of processing the events of that cursed night. We all carry it in different ways and not all of it is constructive. 


Me, I’ve been suffering with a lingering sense of guilt, an illogical and complex kind of emotion borne of the fact that I was away the night terror came to Lewiston. I was away when the first gunshots echoed across the city. I was away as confused and panic stricken residents locked their doors and rounded up their children. 

Where was I when Lewiston’s worst nightmare was realized? Away in another town watching kids play soccer. 

It’s absurd, of course. Had I been here, slumped at my desk as normal for a Wednesday night, there’s nothing I could have done to forestall the terrible things that unfolded. My presence wouldn’t have altered the chain of events in any significant way. 

And yet there is guilt and along with it, always, that ever present sense of disbelief that borders on denial. I know that 18 people were killed here and that many others were wounded on that night just a few days before Halloween. But I still have trouble believing it all the way. I still maintain an unhealthy hope that I really WILL wake up one morning to find that it was all some vile fantasy, some nightmare inspired by spicy food or bad medicine. I’ll wake up and find that this city is still the same old Lewiston, unchanged and not at all scarred by the kind of thing that’s supposed to happen only in other places. 

Ultimately though, it IS the same old Lewiston around us, and the people who reside within its borders are still the same scrappy and resilient souls they’ve always been. In the days following the madness, you could see in their faces signs of something that must be close kin to battle fatigue. In later weeks, that look would be replaced by the strain of something else; a mishmash of emotions not all of which made sense. Some of it was anger, some just a prevailing sense of sadness and sympathy for the friends and family of the fallen. 

Maybe a little bit of it was that morose sense of denial — that sporadic feeling of unreality — of that kind that lingers with me still. 


I was talking to a retired firefighter the other day when, inevitably — he brought it up, not I. I never bring it up if I don’t have to — we got on the subject of Robert Card and the destruction he wrought on that grim night. 

“I never thought I’d see something like this in my lifetime,” he said, grimly. “Not here.” 

I talked to a man who had lost people in the shooting and he remarked that he didn’t quite know how to sort his feelings about the whole terrible thing. For many, it’s like a puzzle inside the mind and all the pieces are too strange, too grotesque and oddly shaped to fit where they’re supposed to go. 

It happened here? To us? In this city we all embrace as our own? 

No. Surely it did not. 

God save us, though, it did happen. 

Maybe one day I’ll be able to believe it completely. 

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