Bates College in Lewiston is uncharacteristically quiet on Friday, still in lockdown after Wednesday’s mass shooting in the city. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Abby Sellnow was writing a paper about Shakespeare’s “Titus Andronicus” in an empty classroom at Bates College on Wednesday when she got the first text about an active shooter. Minutes later, she received the alert to shelter in place. She walked into the building’s atrium expecting to find other students studying in the sunlit space, but it was deserted. She tried to call her roommate, who was somewhere in the same building, but she couldn’t get through.

“I was a little panicked,” said Sellnow, a first-year student.

That panic rippled across the small campus in Lewiston, just a couple of miles from the bowling alley and the bar where a gunman killed 18 people and injured 13 more that night.

These students grew up in the era of active shooter drills, but the familiar motions did not lessen the fear. Some spent Wednesday night peering at their cellphone screens in darkened dorms, while others sheltered in the library or the dining hall until the sun came up Thursday.

For nearly 48 hours as they sheltered in place, they learned the extent of the violence and mourned with the city outside their locked doors. The state lifted the shelter-in-place order for Lewiston, Auburn, Lisbon and Bowdoin on Friday night, and shooting suspect Robert Card’s body was found in Lisbon hours later. Classes were to resume Monday.

Senior Alex Voight-Shelley, 22, has gotten to know Lewiston in the four years since she arrived in Maine from Pennsylvania. She and her friends like to eat bagels at Forage Market and Italian food at DaVinci’s, and she has volunteered at the Androscoggin County Humane Society. She was on the way to a horror movie trivia night at Obscura Café & Drinkery with friends when she got the first text about an active shooter in the city.


“I really love Lewiston,” she said. “It’s sad because I never felt unsafe in that city before. It’s just such a wonderful place to be. I still love Lewiston.”

She and her friends headed back to campus. They called campus security to make sure they could get back to their dorms, and texted each other when they were inside to make sure everyone was safe.

Students sheltered in the library overnight found a cabinet of snacks. Courtesy of Anna Masumoto

Across campus, those same texts were sent over and over. Sellnow, 18, eventually found her roommate, and they joined a dozen students in a classroom with no windows on an upper floor. Everyone was searching for information on news websites and social media.

“We could just hear sirens and helicopters,” she said.

Some students slept, she said, but she barely dozed for 45 minutes on the floor. Eventually, she and her roommate scouted out a path to their nearby dorm, which they could see from a window. They sprinted across the grass to their building at 4:30 a.m., locking the door and shutting the blinds when they got inside.

In the library, Anna Masumoto was studying with her soccer teammates when the alerts sounded. A couple of hours earlier, they had been shopping at the Salvation Army Thrift Store, less than a half mile from the bowling alley where the shooting began. She and her friends had bought brightly patterned scrubs and planned to dress up for Halloween as pediatricians while giving out lollipops.


“They’re hanging up in our closets right now and probably are not going to be worn,” said Masumoto, 20.

The seriousness of the situation did not immediately sink in, she said, but then the library staff locked down the building. As the magnitude of the losses became clear from news reports, she felt comforted by the sight of friends and familiar faces throughout the library. She thought of the local students she has met through soccer programs with her team. Hours in, she was jolted by a loud bang but reassured by a library staffer who said students had just broken open a locked cabinet of snacks. Soon, everyone was munching on Cheetos and Famous Amos cookies. Masumoto got back to her dorm at 2:30 a.m.

“We see this stuff on social media all the time, in the news all the time,” she said. “I don’t want to say that we’re desensitized to it, but the shock definitely takes a different form than when you’ve seen it unfold from afar.”

A harrowing evening became an uncertain morning, and the lockdown extended from Thursday into Friday. Parents texted and called. Students finally slept and then woke to find nothing changed. Classes were canceled and deadlines extended. The college set up a schedule for each dorm to visit the dining hall for grab-and-go meals. Charlie Kohn, a first year from Ohio, skipped the long line for hot food and opted for packaged ham sandwiches.

Andrew Sondey, left, and Charlie Kohn return to their dorms on Friday after getting their grab-and-go lunches from the Bates College dining commons in Lewiston. The campus had been in lockdown since Wednesday’s fatal mass shooting. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

“I just wanted to get in, get out,” he said.

Trinity Poon, a sophomore from Massachusetts, said her French professor set up a Zoom at their normal meeting time in case students wanted to talk. It wasn’t mandatory, and it wasn’t class. (“He put in an email, ‘This will be in English,’ ” she said.) He listened to their stories from Wednesday night and told them: “None of you should have to be going through this. I’m sorry that you are.”


Students said they have tried to take their mind off the tragedy. They’ve watched movies: “How to Train Your Dragon,” “Shrek,” “Insurgent.” Kohn and his friends played pingpong. Masumoto and hers played the video game Fortnite. Andrew Sondey and his friends decorated pumpkin cookies with orange sprinkles and green icing. Sondey, a first-year from New York, said many students were leaving campus Friday or Saturday to go to family homes throughout New England.

“Just to be able to get outside,” said Sondey, 18.

The experience was somewhat reminiscent of the lockdown in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in spring 2020. Voight-Shelley was in her first year then. But this time has also been different because she can be close to her friends without fear of catching a virus, and just seeing her friends has made her feel less isolated than she did three years ago.

“Now at least we have each other,” she said.

Whatever happens next, Bates students said they want to find ways to support their neighbors in Lewiston.

“The full effects are not for Bates students at all,” said Poon. “While we are part of the story and we’re being affected by it, we have a lot of privileges, such as the privilege to leave. We’re very aware that it is Lewiston that is being affected. I think a lot of students want to focus on the people who were directly affected and the city itself.”

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