WINTHROP — As Whitney Bell, a family member of two victims of last week’s mass shooting in Lewiston, spoke Wednesday night at a candlelight vigil in Winthrop, there was not a dry eye in the crowd.

Robert Young, the grandfather of Winthrop High School freshman Aaron Young and father of Bill Young, speaks during a vigil Wednesday at Winthrop High School. Aaron, 14, and Bill Young, 43, were among the 18 people killed by a gunman last week during a rampage in Lewiston. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

The community came together to honor the lives of Aaron Young, 14; Bill Young, 43; and Jason Walker, 51, who each had ties to Winthrop, at a vigil organized by the high school and leaders of the local community.

Bell’s brother, Bill Young, and nephew, Aaron Young, were among the 18 killed when a shooter open fire at a bowling alley and a bar in Lewiston on Oct. 25.

She thanked the community for being there for her family members as they endured the “hardest thing any of us have had to do.”

“Our grief is unmeasurable and our hearts are completely broken,” Bell said, on behalf of her family. “We cry not only for our loss but the 16 other families that experienced this tragedy.”

Her family members, along with Walker — the uncle of a Winthrop High School student — were all killed while out for a night of bowling at Just-in-Time Recreation in Lewiston.


A total of 13 victims were injured at the two targeted sites, and some remain in critical condition at hospitals in Lewiston and Boston.

Bell said her brother was the “funniest person,” and Aaron was the light of his life.

Aaron Young, 14, was a freshman at Winthrop High School and “left behind a lot of friends,” according to Sam, one of those friends.

Several of Aaron Young’s friends spoke of his heart and kindness. They said he was the type of person who would sit with students at lunch if they did not have anyone to sit with and make jokes throughout the school day.

Jim Hodgkin, the superintendent of Winthrop Public Schools, speaks during a vigil Wednesday at Winthrop High School for the victims of the mass shooting last week in Lewiston. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“All I can say is I wish he was here right now,” said Danny, another of Aaron Young’s friends.

At the vigil, Aaron Young’s friends were met by a therapy dog, Dexter, which, along with several other dogs at the event, helped people deal with their emotions.


About 100 people from Winthrop and beyond attended the gathering.

Priscilla Jenkins, a substitute teacher at the school, relayed a memory her freshman granddaughter, Elizabeth, had shared about Aaron Young.

“I asked her if she had any memories of Aaron, and she said she married him in fourth grade — and she doesn’t just marry anyone,” Jenkins said, providing a lighthearted moment at the vigil.

Attendees hold candles and signal “I love you” in American Sign Language at the end of a vigil Wednesday at Winthrop High School for victims of the mass shooting last week in Lewiston. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Members of the local faith community reminded those in attendance that they are not alone in processing grief.

Julie Branagan, sister of Jason Walker, spoke of how she does not want sadness and anger to overshadow the victims’ lives, and said what is “keeping her sane” is knowing love exists in the community.

Branagan is also the mother of Winthrop High School student Brayden Branagan, who plays on the school’s football team.


“We have to be kind to one another in a world that is extremely divided,” she said. “We have to be the people of change.”

Walker died after protecting his wife and children and then charging at the shooter.

Members of the local faith community said they are available to those who need them, and offered advice on how those who are grieving can move forward.

Jim Hodgkin, the superintendent of Winthrop Public Schools, said he is heartbroken, and Terri Hewett, a guidance counselor in the Winthrop Public Schools, compared processing the grief to keeping candles lit during the ceremony.

Said Hewett: “We all look to keep our candles lit. We adjust, we turn to each other, we shield it from the wind.”

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