The Lewiston mass shooting has served as a stark reminder that such atrocities can happen even in places we consider safe right within our communities, seemingly out of the blue.

Abdi Nor Iftin is a Somali-American writer, radio journalist and public speaker. He lives in Yarmouth and can be contacted at

Just prior to the shooting that evening, I had returned from a refreshing 4-mile run in Yarmouth. With no knowledge of what was going on in Lewiston, I shared that experience on Instagram, only to receive concerned comments from friends about my safety and the safety of our state. That’s how I learned about the shooting.

As I write this piece, I can’t help but think of the 18 precious lives that were lost, who were all like us, not thinking that day would be their last. It was a stark reminder that nowhere is truly safe from such incidents. As a new Mainer, a naturalized U.S. citizen, and an immigrant, I can’t help but feel embarrassed by the prevailing gun culture in our nation, a culture that took 18 Mainers from us.

I came to realize how I had taken the peace and close-knit community of Maine for granted. It hadn’t crossed my mind that the very state I had proudly showcased as the ideal late fall destination, the last place one would expect a mass shooting, had suddenly become a subject of worldwide prayers and media coverage displaying scenes of horror.

I vividly remember the horrors of Somalia’s civil war during my childhood, when my family and I endured the constant threat of violence. One evening we sat on the side of a dusty road, waiting for the sunset before embarking on another long walk to escape the horrors of gun violence and the chaos. A 5-year-old at the time, I asked my mother why people were shooting and killing each other. Her answer was simple but haunting: “It’s the guns.”

We lost our home, dear friends and family members due to guns. Most importantly, we left behind the lives we had known to seek safety. It’s a story that almost all new Mainers in Lewiston would tell you. As events unfolded in Lewiston, I received messages from new Mainers there, who recalled memories of war zones they had known before immigrating.


I also found myself on a group chat centered on the tragic event. While I did not have sufficient information, I struggled to explain or make sense to others why anyone in a country like the United States would need a weapon capable of causing harm to so many people. Someone commented that the U.S. votes for arms embargo on nations around the world to prevent people from killing each other, why not begin here at home?

Can we as a community do anything to save our beautiful state of Maine and its people from any more mass shootings? I believe we can.

I believe it is crucial that we take bold actions. As Mainers, we should ensure that the lives lost in Lewiston are not forgotten, and we must express our feelings in whatever language we speak to our state leaders. I am writing a letter to our governor, sharing my experiences and trauma from war and guns. I am telling her that I want bold actions taken on guns with the hope that our state of Maine can become a catalyst for change across the nation.

In the meantime, it may be some time until I can feel safe going bowling or sitting comfortably in restaurants in Maine.

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