AUBURN, Maine — The pastors who addressed the candlelight vigil Thursday night in Festival Plaza reminded the twin cities of Lewiston and Auburn of their resilience in the aftermath of last week’s mass shooting that killed 18 people, injured more than a dozen, and plunged the state into grief.
“What is coping anyway?” Pastor John Robbins of Hope Haven Gospel Mission asked rhetorically, as he stood behind a podium before at least 100 people.
There was silence, punctuated by some sniffles. Mourners clutched candles, and some wiped their eyes.
“It’s putting one foot in front of the other despite how you’re feeling — the grief, the rage ... It’s normal — the anger, confusion. The other loss of how to continue and the desire for someone potentially to just simply put their arms around you and tell you that everything can be all right. Can it?”
The vigil was organized by Faith Baptist Church in Auburn. It is one of several that has been held around Lewiston since a gunman opened fire at a popular bowling alley and a bar in the city. It came just one day after Lewiston commemorated the attacks with a day of kindness, and about 24 hours after Lewiston and Auburn squared off in the annual high school football game known as the “Battle of the Bridge.”
The tragedy has hit Faith Baptist particularly hard.
One of its members, Leroy Walker Sr., an Auburn city councilor, lost his son Joseph in the shooting. Joseph Walker was the manager at Schemengees Bar & Grille in Lewiston, where a cornhole tournament was underway when the attack happened around 8 p.m.
“He has been so good in our church. We love him very much,” the Rev. Jonathan Case, pastor at Faith Baptist, said of Leroy Walker.
“And when we heard and understood what took place, our church really wanted to do something special for Leroy, but also for you,” Case said to the gathering.
Beverly Walker, Leroy’s wife and Joseph’s stepmother, stood with a candle in her right hand. A stuffed animal was tucked under her arm. A man put his arm around her, a small gesture of comfort on a cold night.
Case and his family closed the brief ceremony, leading all those who had gathered in a rendition of “Amazing Grace.”
In the center of the crowd, Keith Tremblay stood, his eyes glistening, as he stared straight ahead. He wore only a hooded sweatshirt in a sea of people dressed in winter coats and hats.
Tremblay was at Schemengees when the gunman opened fire, killing eight people, including Joseph Walker, who died trying to stop the massacre, charging at the perpetrator with a knife.
Tremblay, who lives in Lewiston, is related to the Walker family. His voice wavered as he described what the vigil meant to him, surrounded, he said, by “people I know and love.”
If Schemengees reopens, Tremblay doesn’t know if he’ll go back. The pain is still so raw.
Kathy McCabe of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.