Children return to school and trick-or-treat as Maine community starts to heal from mass shooting

Bates College students welcome trick-or-treaters on Halloween in Lewiston, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

LEWISTON, Maine — Children were back in school in Lewiston and on the streets dressed as dinosaurs and princesses for Halloween, after a chaotic week that saw the deadliest mass shooting in Maine’s history and a massive search for the suspect as people sheltered indoors.

Hundreds of students returned to Lewiston High School, petting therapy dogs and signing a large banner that read “Lewiston Strong.” Days earlier the campus had been transformed into a law enforcement command post, with helicopters utilizing athletic fields and 300 vehicles filling the parking lot.

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“Today’s going to be hard,” Superintendent Jake Langlais said. “But I think there’s strength in gathering, in unity, in getting back together.”

Jayden Sands, a 15-year-old sophomore, said one of his football coaches lost four friends. One of his best friends also lost a friend, and his mom’s friend was shot four times but survived.

Sands is glad to be back at school though safety was in the back of his mind.

“A lot of people are shocked and scared,” he said. “I’m just happy to be here. You know, another day to live. Hopefully it gets better.”

On Wednesday night, a U.S. Army reservist and firearms instructor from Bowdoin fatally shot 18 people at a bowling alley and a bar. A massive search followed on land and water for 40-year-old Robert Card. Authorities issued a shelter-in-place order for residents before Card was found dead Friday.

Nearly a week later, parents and children were searching for candy in their favorite costumes, many thronging a long-running event put on by Peter Geiger, whose Lewiston-based business publishes the Farmers’ Almanac. Each year hundreds visit to get king-size candy bars — as long as they know the “secret” password — which this Halloween was “Lewiston Strong.”

And again, the streets were filled with assorted ghosts, monsters, Disney princesses and blow-up dinosaurs, a Halloween almost like any other.

“I hurt as much as anyone else. For all of us there’s a loss,” Geiger said. “But I’m not going to let somebody undo a fun night for kids and families.”

Michelle Russell, assistant principal at McMahon Elementary School, who was with her granddaughter, dressed as a witch, said it was important to go trick-or-treating.

“We’re trying to get back to normal, if we can do that. We’re taking it slow,” she said.

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