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The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

‘I felt kind of helpless’: Quinnipiac students from Maine reflect on Lewiston mass shooting

A ‘Lewiston strong’ banner hangs in downtown Lewiston, Maine, on Oct. 26, a day after a gunman killed 18 people and injured 13 more in the deadliest shooting in the state’s history. (Courtesy of Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Lia Rand, Juliette Lapointe, Oliver Cochran, Mac Davis, Sarah Barter and Hannah Smith all sat in their respective dorms, apartments and houses — most at Quinnipiac University — on the evening of Oct. 25, winding down from a normal Wednesday.

Some 230 miles from Hamden, in Lewiston, Maine, dozens of people celebrated the end of the work day with family and friends, on one side of town at a bowling alley, on the other at a bar.

Over a span of 20 minutes beginning just before 7 p.m., a gunman opened fire in both, killing 18 people and injuring 13 more in what was the deadliest shooting in the state’s history and in the U.S. this year.

In the minutes and hours that followed, the news came flooding in. Smith found out through social media. Davis got a text from her best friend. Rand’s parents called her. Their initial reaction was all the same.

“I didn’t think that it was true,” said Smith, who graduated from Quinnipiac with a degree in journalism this past spring. She was in Portland — approximately 37 miles from Lewiston — at the time of the shooting.

“Immediately I just thought, ‘This is Maine, this has never happened in Maine before.’” 

Maine had the lowest violent crime rate in the country in 2022, at 103.3 violent crimes per 100,000 people. The national average is 380.7. The state’s ten-year average for homicides is 19.1 — also among the lowest in the nation. Wednesday’s shooting nearly equaled that in a single night.

“It has genuinely always felt like the safest place in the world to me,” said Lapointe, a senior communications and media studies major from Bath, a town located 27 miles southeast of Lewiston. “That’s my home.”

The shooting and ensuing manhunt for the suspect forced closures at every regional school and nearly every university statewide. Bates College, a private, liberal arts college in Lewiston, postponed the Oct. 27 inauguration of its ninth president, Garry Jenkins.

Quinnipiac officials implemented mandatory active shooter training for students in February after a shooting killed three students at Michigan State University. The 15-minute online course titled “Run, Hide Fight,” instructs students to run if an active shooter is in their vicinity, hide if fleeing is not possible and fight only as a last resort.

“I think it’s really upsetting that this is our reality now,” Rand, a junior from Brunswick — 20 miles from Lewiston — said. “As a criminal justice major, I’m going into law. I think that threat assessment and safety measures are really important … It could happen at any moment, and it does.”

Gun violence has been prevalent on college campuses for years.

Last November, a gunman killed three football players and wounded two other students at the University of Virginia after he opened fire on a charter bus. On Aug. 28, a graduate student at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill shot and killed his faculty adviser inside his own classroom. On Oct. 3, a gunman shot five people during a homecoming celebration at Morgan State University in Baltimore. And three days after the Lewiston shootings, one person was killed and another injured in an Oct. 28 shooting at Worcester State University in Massachusetts.

Today’s college students — who grew up surrounded by school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, Parkland, Florida and most recently Uvalde, Texas, — learned from a young age the reality of gun violence.

“Unfortunately I’d assumed if anything happened it would probably be a school shooting,” Barter, a junior psychology major from Falmouth — 31 miles from Lewiston — said.

But not in Maine. Not in a state with the lowest population density east of the Mississippi River. Not in a state nicknamed “Vacationland.”

The search for the gunman responsible for the Oct. 25 mass shooting in Lewiston, Maine, took over 48 hours and involved hundreds of local, state and federal law enforcement personnel. (Courtesy of Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)


In the aftermath of the shooting, the gunman fled the scene in a white Subaru before dumping the car at a boat launch. Just before 10 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 27, police found his body — dead by an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound — about a mile from the car at the recycling center where he previously worked.

It took hundreds of state and federal law enforcement officers more than 48 hours to locate the body, all while more than 100,000 Mainers in Androscoggin and Northern Sagadahoc counties sat in lockdown under shelter-in-place orders until late Friday night.

“I can’t believe that they haven’t caught him yet,” Lapointe said on Oct. 26. “It’s so scary to think about that he’s just out there and my family lives there and they don’t know where he is.”

As the manhunt drew on, the miles between Lewiston and Hamden amplified the anxiety.

“My parents and my brother were at home, and I was here,” Rand said. “I felt kind of helpless.”

That feeling was mutual for every Quinnipiac student from the state.

“I’ve constantly been refreshing my social media feeds to see if there have been any updates,” Davis, a sophomore on the occupational therapy track from South Berwick — 77 miles from Lewiston — wrote in a message to The Chronicle. “I have multiple friends in the area just North of Lewiston and have constantly been in contact with them to ease my mind as well as theirs.”

Even after the lockdown lifted and panic subsided, students expressed an absence of closure in how the saga came to an end.

“I was relieved that people could go back to living their lives,” said Cochran, a junior finance major from Cape Elizabeth — 44 miles from Lewiston. “But part of me was a little mad that the guy didn’t have to face justice and he just got an easy out. I’d rather have someone like that have to face justice and live with themself in prison.”


On Oct. 27, two days after the shooting, the University of Maine reopened its flagship campus in Orono, 117 miles from Lewiston.

Although the university postponed several athletics contests in the immediate days that followed, Maine men’s hockey made the trip south to face Quinnipiac on Oct. 27 and 28 — playing now, more than ever, for the entire state of Maine.

“We have great support,” Maine head coach Ben Barr said. “The best support that I’ve ever seen in college hockey through thick and thin. Maybe it meant a little more tonight.”

On the other side of the ice, Quinnipiac associate head coach Joe Dumais also had Maine on his mind. Dumais grew up in Auburn, across the Androscoggin River from Lewiston.

“You see all these shootings all the time and just don’t think they’ll happen close to home,” Dumais said. “And then all of sudden you see CNN, Fox, MSNBC: Lewiston, Maine. I’ve been to that bar. I’ve been to that bowling alley … I have family that goes to those places. It just doesn’t even seem real.”

Dumais’ parents and sister drove down to stay with him in Connecticut to escape the region in the midst of a lockdown.

“My whole family lives in Auburn,” Dumais said. “Parents, sister, aunts, uncles, everybody and then a lot of friends … my cousin knows a lot of people that died, unfortunately … it’s just tough, it’s just tough to see that.”

Quinnipiac held a moment of silence for the victims prior to the start of both games against the Black Bears.

Elizabeth Seal, wife of victim Joshua Seal, embraces another mourner at a community vigil in Lewiston on Oct. 30. (Courtesy of Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)


There is no time limit to the impact of a mass shooting. It will stay with Lewiston forever.

Mainers will mourn the victims and grieve their loss. They will ask how and why this tragedy happened, and if it could have been prevented. But the city — and the state — will heal.

“Tonight, Lewiston, and the State of Maine, begin to move forward on what will be a long and difficult road to healing,” Maine governor Janet Mills said in an Oct. 27 press conference after the manhunt concluded. “But we will heal together.”

“I think that word — ‘together’ — is so important because we can’t just do it alone,” Smith said. “Lewiston can’t just do it alone.”

That support is not just from the 1.3 million within the state’s borders. It’s everywhere. Even at Quinnipiac, where the Maine student population is small, its bond with the state is as strong as ever.

“I heard one person say, ‘Maine is such a big, small state,’” Rand said. “Like, it’s huge but we’re all so close knit and together and we’re very sheltered from the rest of the country. And I think we need to remember that we have built this beautiful community, and that this is not going to affect that.”

But the 18 victims – parents, siblings, children, friends – that were gunned down on Oct. 25 leave an irreplacable hole in a community permantly altered.

“I just kept thinking about those people. Those innocent human beings that were at the bar, just playing pool, that died,” Smith said. “This country needs to change, everything needs to change. This can’t be normal.”

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Cameron Levasseur
Cameron Levasseur, Sports Editor

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