More than 1,000 pay tribute to Maine’s mass shooting victims on day of prayer, reflection on tragedy

People linger on Sunday outside the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul after a vigil for the victims of Wednesday's mass shootings in Lewiston, Maine. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

LEWISTON, Maine — They came together Sunday night to mourn those lost in Maine’s worst mass shooting, hugging one another, singing a rousing edition of “Amazing Grace,” and seeking guidance out of these dark days from religious leaders who talked of hope, healing and the power of prayer.

More than 1,000 people gathered for the vigil Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Lewiston. Some put their heads in their hands as the names of the 18 people who died in Wednesday’s shooting were read. Others quietly wept.

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Hundreds more watched a live stream of the vigil shown on a huge screen in front of the church. Some held American flags and others had lit candles in cups marked with the names of the dead and injured.

“Remember to seek healing over relief. Relief is temporary. Healing is permanent. Pain is temporary,” 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 to ask how they might help them.

The vigil 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, since four of its members were killed in the shooting.

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. Several in attendance could be seeing signing to one another throughout the vigil.

The victims are now gone, he said, “but they are directing us to come together and make a difference in this word.”

The Rev. Allen Austin, a senior pastor at Pathways Vineyard Church in Lewiston encouraged the crowd to “stay focused on the things that invite peace into our communities.”

Austin said he hopes that what arises from the tragedy is a “kinder people, a more compassionate people, a more merciful people.”

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,” he said. “Fear, anxiety and trepidation will not dictate our present or our future.”

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