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Kids return to school, trick-or-treat in Maine town

Week after gunman killed 18, community cautiously moves ahead

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Halloween brings smiles to the faces of trick-or-treaters in the wake of last week's mass shootings, Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2023, in Lewiston, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty) (robert f.
Halloween brings smiles to the faces of trick-or-treaters in the wake of last week's mass shootings, Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2023, in Lewiston, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty) (robert f. bukaty/Associated Press) Photo Gallery

LEWISTON, Maine — Children were back in school in Lewiston and on the streets dressed as dinosaurs and princesses for Halloween on Tuesday, 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” — the community’s new motto. Days earlier the campus had been transformed into a law enforcement command post, with three helicopters utilizing the athletic fields and 300 vehicles filling the parking lot.

“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 lost a friend, and his mom’s friend was shot four times but survived.

He’s glad to be back at school but also worried about safety. He said everyone at school will “try to act like everything is fine, but it’s not.”

“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 the night of Oct. 25, a U.S. Army reservist and firearms instructor from Bowdoin fatally shot 18 people at a bowling alley and a bar. That sparked a massive search on land and water for 40-year-old Robert Card. Police and other authorities issued a shelter-in-place order for residents while trying to track down Card, who was found dead Friday.

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

The trick-or-treat event dates back a quarter-century. Not unlike years past, the streets were filled with an assortment of ghosts, monsters, Disney princesses and blow-up dinosaurs. Most parents said it looked like any other Halloween.

“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.”

Carli Ayres was trick-or-treating — cautiously — with her daughter Sage, age 6, and 1-month-old Braelyn in the neighboring community of Auburn.

“It’s still a little scary. Everyone is still on edge,” she said. “Everyone is definitely keeping two eyes on all their kids tonight, not letting anyone out of their sight.”

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.

Logan Phelps, of Greene, said Halloween was a distraction from a tough week that included some difficult discussions he and his wife, Rebecca, had with kids.

Luna, 5, and Juniper, 3, were both dressed as Wonder Woman, and their 20-month-old brother, Allister, went as a triceratops.

“At the end of the day, you’ve got to keep going, and you’ve got to keep living your life,” Phelps said. “It’s still sad. It’s going to be sad for a long time.”