Over 100 residents in and around Bangor, Maine, gathered in unity on the night of Oct. 29 for a Candlelight Vigil on the steps of City Hall. Only a matter of days ago, 18 people were killed by gunfire in the Lewiston massacre, and thousands were left in a state of mourning.
The city of Bangor held the vigil to honor those in Maine whose lives were untimely taken amidst the mass-casualty event and to show solidarity with the remainder of Lewiston. Candles were distributed and lit by shared flames. Chairman of the Bangor City Council, Rick Fournier, introduced Pastor Harry Jenkins, who stepped up to the podium to commence the speaking portion.
Pastor Jenkins first read a scripture from the Gospel of Matthew: “Sermon of the Mount” and initiated a moment of prayer.
“Pray, Lord, for those who are still ill, those who are still in the hospital, those who still have injuries. That you will heal them and that they will come back healthy very soon… we pray tonight, that you help them, the City of Lewiston, the surrounding towns, our state, and even our nation tonight. May the healing begin,” said Jenkins.
Chair of the Bangor School Committee Marwa Hassanien was the next to share her thoughts.
“This tragedy took the lives of 18 innocent people and injured many others. As we heard the news, it shook us to the core and forever scarred our state. We pray for peace that surpasses understanding, unity to help heal our hearts and wounds and the strength to overcome this unimaginable adversity that impacted us all,” Hassanien said.
Hassanien drew attention to the great willpower of Maine and its people’s ability to care for one another in times of widespread suffering. Despite the heartache, our frontline workers and hospital staff put their own lives at risk and mental well-being on the line to control some of the damage. There was a significant amount of time spent by community members to help those in dire need of assistance.
“This past week has shown Maine’s endurance in times of grief. Coming together in love and support for one another is a hallmark of Maine. Let us stand together, shoulder to shoulder, as we work to heal, rebuild and support one another in this challenging time,” said Hassanien.
Andre Cushing III is chair of the Penobscot County Commission. He spoke not only on behalf of himself but also his colleagues who serve the county.
“During dark times, it has always been our faith and our communities that have come together to comfort and lift up those who are weak. We are a state of caring, decent and compassionate individuals. We take care of our friends and neighbors as we do our families,”
Joe Baldacci represents Bangor and Hermon in the Maine State Senate. He referenced a quote about the city of Bangor by a renowned writer to connect his words to the aftermath of the Lewiston shooting.
“The writer, Henry David Thoreau, famously called Bangor a star on the edge of night. Tonight, that star shines ever-bright and ever-strong and ever-solid with our brothers and sisters in Lewiston. And anywhere in the world where acts of violence have killed innocent people,” Baldacci said.
Baldacci also went on to suggest a reformation of Maine gun control laws. He, like many others following the tragedy, believes there should be stricter regulations to prevent those unauthorized to carry weapons from obtaining them.
He suggested that the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Gov. Janet Mills work together to compose a state-wide registry of Maine residents who are legally prohibited from possessing firearms. Baldacci compared it to having a list of named registered sex offenders. There would need to be a strong effort to not only publicize this potential list but also ensure that it is updated on a regular basis.
“There are thousands of Mainers today with possession of firearms who are prohibited under current law from having them. In addition, Maine does not have laws requiring their surrender to state authorities, nor does Maine require the surrender of firearms or ammunition at active scenes involving domestic violence… this needs to change,” said Baldacci.
Representative of Bangor District 23 Amy Roeder stood at the podium and made the distinction that what happened on Oct. 25 was not gun violence but an absolute massacre. She drew attention to the fact that to prevent casualty events effectively, we must get through to our most impressionable citizens: the younger generation.
“We must do more to reach out to our children and teach them to express their anger and to resolve their conflicts with words, not weapons,” Roeder said.
Roeder also emphasized that essential gun control should not be viewed as a political dispute, as it is necessary for the conservation of human life. That is a lesson we are taught by the hundreds of mass shootings that occur every single year. However, it is frequently forgotten and it leads to the question ‘When will we learn?’ and ‘At what point will our leaders come to decide that enough is enough?’
“This is not a democratic or republican value in one single act of these shooters, but people in power who failed to act. Can both sides see beyond the political problem at hand and admit we have a life preservation problem on our hands?” said Roeder.
She went on to describe the shared grief that our communities are experiencing at this time. Only, it was not simply in response to this particular tragedy. Her words were an accumulation of deeply saddened individuals who addressed the public after different shootings across the nation throughout the entire decade.
“None of those words are mine. They were taken directly from vigils and services and testimony and prayers following other acts of gun violence. From Uvalde, from Sandy Hook, from Boulder, from San Bernardino, from Columbine. Lewiston is now added to the catalog of sorrow that we must bear on our backs until it drives us weeping to our knees,” Roeder said.
Gretchen Schaefer, Bangor City Council Representative, began a period of silence. It lasted 18 seconds, one for each life lost last Wednesday evening.
“Five nights ago, at this moment, people were having a great time. They were bowling, they were playing cornhole, they were hanging with their friends at a bar… in one minute, that would have all changed,” said Schaefer.
All speakers contributed to a reading of every victim’s name and a brief description of who they were.
Cara Pelletier, Bangor City Council Member, described her grief, having family in the area, and many beautiful memories of life in Lewiston.
“We’re here because we recognize the simple truth that we are all connected. We are a state of families, of neighbors and friends looking out for each other. No act of terror can take that sense of community from us. We are here not only to mourn but to support and uplift one another,” Pelletier said.
Pelletier held a second moment of silence in honor of those killed at the second location attacked in Lewiston. She described how, in that exact moment of the evening on Wednesday, there was a shift from enjoying life at a local restaurant to fighting for it.
“At 7:07 pm, the second round of 911 calls began coming in from Schemengees Bar and Grille. I would like to ask you to join me in a moment of silence to honor the lives lost and the victims at that location,” said Pelletier.
Pastor Jenkins invited the attendees to recite one final prayer with him, a scripture from Matthew 6.