WASHINGTON — In a fluorescent-lit cafeteria on the first floor of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, about 45 people milled around, chatting, sipping sodas and picking at hour-old sandwiches. Among them were survivors from Uvalde, Texas, bereaved parents from Parkland, Florida, and high school students from Newtown, Connecticut.

Arthur Barnard and Kristy Strout hugged and chatted with them. They were there to attend the 11th annual National Vigil for All Victims of Gun Violence after Arthur “Artie” Strout, his son and her husband, was killed in Maine’s deadliest mass shooting.

The crowd was relatively subdued. Then someone’s phone pinged.

“Police respond to an active shooter on Las Vegas campus,” Strout read.

Barnard’s eyes widened. Others around the room picked up their phones.

Fred Guttenberg, an organizer of the event whose daughter Jamie was killed in the Parkland High School shooting, began to type out a social media post: “Oh no. This can’t be happening again.”


Barnard and Strout made the trip to the nation’s capital to meet with other families of gun violence victims and the Maine congressional delegation.

They swiped on their phones in shock as news of the country’s latest shooting unfolded just 42 days after they lost Artie. Guttenberg stood nearby.

“I hate getting these notifications. I hate knowing that next year I’m going to come here and meet new families,” he said. “I hate knowing that there are going to be families, parents, whose children were supposed to be coming home for the holidays in another week or so, and they won’t be coming home.”

Kristy Strout reads a CNN article about a shooting at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. The news broke Wednesday afternoon, and many vigil attendees found out through news alerts. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Strout’s long red nails made a clacking sound as she texted a friend whose brother-in-law goes to school at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

“I feel sick to my stomach,” Strout said as she typed. “This is sick.”



It was standing room only at St. Mark’s when the vigil began at 7 p.m.

High school students from the Newtown Action Alliance walked down the aisle holding candles. As someone began playing piano, they placed them on an altar below the hundreds of photos and names flashing across a projector screen.

“Maite Rodriguez, 10, Uvalde Texas, May 24, 2022.”

“Adam Ward, 26, August 26, 2015, Smith Mountain Lake.”

“Arthur Strout, 42, October 25, Lewiston.”

Barnard and Strout sat just a couple of rows from the front. Barnard sighed and shook his head as photos of two young kids appeared on the screen.


“It’s overwhelming seeing all these photos,” he said.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer arrived about half an hour later. Barnard and Strout had watched him from the Senate Gallery earlier that afternoon when he asked senators to move forward with an assault weapons ban.

“It’s unmistakable, the scourge of gun violence in America is a national crisis” Schumer told the crowd. “This morning Democrats tried to take action by moving to pass the assault weapons ban and rid our streets of these deadly weapons of war. … Sadly, Republicans let the American people down once again.”

About an hour into the vigil, Strout picked up a framed photo of her late husband and gripped it to her chest. She didn’t put it down.

Kristy Strout holds onto a photo of her late husband Arthur “Artie” Strout while she sits next to her father-in-law Arthur Barnard at the 11th annual National Vigil for All Victims of Gun Violence at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Washington on Wednesday. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

A chorus of children sang “The Rose” by Bette Midler. Barnard and Strout pulled out their phones to film the performance and cried.

“Just remember in the winter
Far beneath the bitter snows
Lies the seed that with the sun’s love
In the spring becomes the rose,” they sang, receiving a standing ovation.


Barnard pressed his lips together until they turned white. Strout brushed tears from her cheeks.

Together, they slowly walked toward the podium just before 9 p.m.

More than 100 people had lined up to hold up photos and briefly share their stories.

“This is my son Arthur Strout. He was killed five weeks ago just after I left him playing pool for a couple of hours,” Barnard said when it was his turn, his voice breaking. “This is his wife Kristy. And it happened less than 10 minutes after I left him. With an assault weapon.”


Barnard and Strout will meet with the Maine delegation Thursday morning alongside one of the survivors of the Lewiston shootings and the families of two other victims. None of the representatives was at Wednesday’s vigil.


Spokespeople for Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King, and Rep. Jared Golden, who represents Lewiston, declined to discuss the meetings Wednesday.

Rep. Chellie Pingree’s office said in an emailed statement that she “looks forward to hearing the concerns of family members … and is pressing for answers as to whether the Army could have done more to prevent this tragedy.”

Leroy Walker, whose son Joe Walker was killed at Schemengees Bar & Grille where he was a manager, said he wants answers about the events leading up to Joe’s death.

“So far, they’ve been graceful and given us their time, but we’ve all still got questions,” he said.

But Barnard and Strout have other ideas about what they want to discuss with their elected representatives.

“If I get a second,” said Strout, “I’ll say exactly what I’ve been saying: How many more people have to die till we do something? We want change.”


Arthur Barnard and Kristy Strout walk past the Capitol on their way to meet people from the Newtown Action Alliance on Tuesday. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

The other Mainers headed to Washington – survivor Alan Nickerson, Elizabeth Seal, wife of Joshua Seal, and Tracey Walker, Joe Walker’s wife –  could not be reached Wednesday.

King last week introduced a bill to limit the bullet capacity of magazines to 10 rounds for rifles and shotguns, and 15 rounds for handguns. It also would ban detachable magazines that make it easy to rapidly reload weapons.

Collins, who was briefed on the bill before it was introduced, has not taken a position on it and her staff has said she is continuing to review it.


As Barnard and Strout walked back from the Capitol on Wednesday afternoon after watching the Senate debate the assault weapons ban, Strout got a call from her brother-in-law in Maine who had planned to pick up her kids to take them to counseling appointments that day. He told Strout that when he got to the house, the kids weren’t ready to go and that they’d missed their appointments.

Strout broke down crying, something she seldom does.


While Barnard has spent the week chatting with and crying with and hugging strangers, Strout has often hung back. She’s not as comfortable with new people and she’s really not comfortable expressing her grief in public.

Even alone, she said, sometimes it feels too scary to tap into it. She prefers to stay busy.

When she realized that in her absence there was nobody there to reliably get her kids ready for their appointments, she said it hit her: She is a single mom now.

“It just showed me how alone I am in this. When Arthur was here we were a team, we’d tackle all this together. Now it’s just me.”

Comments are not available on this story.