As the sun began to set and the chill November air blew across the quad last Friday afternoon, Bowdoin students and faculty gathered with Brunswick residents on the steps of the Walker Art Building to mourn the lives lost in the Lewiston mass shooting.
Oliver Goodrich, director of the Rachel Lord Center for Religious and Spiritual Life, opened the vigil with words of comfort. He commended the fortitude displayed by the people of Lewiston and surrounding towns and told those present that it is normal to feel afraid and vulnerable during this time.
“If you’re feeling like we have been experiencing grief upon grief, it’s because we have been, and you’re not alone in that feeling. You’re not alone,” Goodrich said.
Following Goodrich’s opening remarks, Randy Nichols, the executive director of The Office of Safety and Security, read the names of each victim. After each name, a Chapel bell rang in the background while the audience shared a moment of silence. Senior Vice President for Inclusion and Diversity Benje Douglas, who organized the vigil, worked with Delmar Small, the budget and equipment manager for the music department, to ensure the correct timing of the bells.
The pause allowed those present to reflect on the lives lost. For Rebeca Manzo ’27, listening to the solemn sound after each name was the most moving moment of the vigil.
“It was really impactful to hear every single name with the pause,” Manzo said. “To just think about what their life could have been like, who their loved ones were. That stood out to me.”
President Safa Zaki shared her reflections from the shooting and the days that followed. Zaki noted how much students, staff and faculty helped one another in a multitude of ways through the aftermath of the shooting. The strength and compassion of Bowdoin’s community served as a light to her, she said, during the otherwise difficult time.
“All of us had a role to play, and we came together as a community. So in the days ahead, where we will still be holding this grief, this pain, this discomfort, I invite us all to lean on each other in the ways which we have been doing,” Zaki said.
Sarah Seames, director of the Mckeen Center for the Common Good, discussed the impact the shooting had on her as a Mainer. She highlighted how Lewiston, which would be considered a small city in most other states, is a large city by Maine standards, with frequent visitors from surrounding smaller towns. Seames also shared how she had believed Maine was too safe a state for a tragedy like the shooting to occur. Her understanding of Lewiston’s role in Maine, as well as her openness about the shock of the shooting, resonated with other Mainers in the audience.
“For me, I saw a lot of other Mainers there, which was really meaningful to see us all kind of come out for this,” Grace Campbell ’27 said. “We all grieved together and helped each other out. [We] took a walk afterwards. It was really nice.”
To highlight a student perspective, Edmundo Ortiz-Alvarez ’23, chair of student affairs committee for Bowdoin Student Government, was asked to speak. He echoed previous thoughts about the vigil’s intention to grieve as a community by discussing the importance of sharing grief and sorrow. He also emphasized the value of helping others carry their grief, while also letting them help you carry your own.
Those who attended, Manzo said, were comforted by their shared grief and fortified by this strength of the community.
“I think it’s a very heavy thing for all of us to go through and feel. To have that space to acknowledge all of the pain that came from it was something very needed. I’m glad we had that space. It was a way to come together,” Manzo said.