LEWISTON — Within hours of the mass shooting that rocked Maine in October, makeshift memorials began popping up around the city, places where heartbroken residents could leave something to provide solace in a dark time.

Flowers, stuffed animals, crosses, posters, cards, and more piled up outside the two entertainment venues where a gunman mowed down 18 people and wounded at least 13 more.

Nearly all of it is gone now, scooped up by the Maine Museum of Innovation, Learning, and Labor, which plans to preserve much of it in the wake of the worst crime the state has ever experienced.

What comes next, though, is less clear.

Wounds in Lewiston are so fresh from the Oct. 25 massacre that discussions about a permanent memorial haven’t yet percolated to the public’s attention, though some are talking privately about the idea.

Lewiston Mayor Carl Sheline on Friday endorsed a memorial. “I think it’s fitting that we should have a community memorial that recognizes the lives we have lost and the resiliency we have found,” he said.


There are no easy answers about what that memorial should be, but the sad reality is mass shootings have become such a staple of modern American life that it’s possible to see what many other places have chosen to do to honor their dead with some kind of permanent place where people can go to mourn and remember.

Some communities settled for a simple stone.

In Killeen, Texas, for instance, a granite slab that stands between its community center and its athletic complex lists the names of 23 people killed when a gunman drove his pickup truck through the front window of Luby’s Cafeteria before opening fire on customers.

Above their names is the date it happened – Oct. 16, 1991 – and nothing else.

Other places have created more elaborate memorials.

The city of San Bernardino, California, unveiled a $1.5 million memorial on the fifth anniversary of a 2015 shooting that killed 14 people and injured 22 others at a public health department training event and Christmas party in a banquet room.


Its laser-cut, steel Curtain of Courage Memorial, erected outside a government center, “consists of 14 individual bronze-colored alcoves shaped like protective curtains,” with victim’s families selecting the color of glass used in each section and choosing a personal phrase for use on a bench inside each alcove.

The project’s designer, Walter Hood, said the effect is “akin to a prism,” with the glass panels refracting and absorbing light, “offering an eternal sparkle, and at night emitting a glowing aura.”

A nighttime view shows the $1.5 million Curtain of Courage Memorial built after a 2015 mass shooting that killed 14 people at a training seminar in San Bernardino, Calif. San Bernardino County, California

Hood, who worked with families and a special committee to come up with the project’s details, said the memorial is meant to resemble a bulletproof vest, “a curtain of courage, where the community could come together and remember” those killed and wounded in the attack.

Even that pales in comparison to a project underway in Virginia Beach that will cost nearly $10 million.

The Virginia Beach effort began soon after a 2019 mass shooting in a city building that left 12 dead and five injured.

In short order, the city later said, it “became a part of an informal national network of communities that have experienced mass violence.”


From officials elsewhere, Virginia Beach leaders said, they got advice about a memorial planning process that included the need to form “a memorial committee to guide the process and seek professional assistance,” hire a “family and survivor liaison to work with the city and the memorial committee” and create a “transparent and inclusive” process that took everyone’s views into account.

The committee got to work in 2022 and quickly located potential sites for a memorial and set goals for it, including remembering those lost by name, adding their personal stories, and acknowledging those wounded.

The memorial itself, officials said, should have “a serene setting for quiet reflection” and engender “empathy, sanctity of life, peace, healing, unity, (and) strength of the community” while providing “an ability to touch and opportunities to read and learn.”

An architectural rendering shows the proposed nearly $10 million memorial for the 2019 mass shooting in Virginia Beach, Va. Dills Architect

Last year, after considerable public input, the city agreed to construct a memorial that would include three major elements: a survivor’s grove filled with dogwoods, walkways, and benches; a hero tree to honor the first responders and a memorial area with falling waters, walkways and sparkling lights beside a pool.

All told the city is spending at least $9.7 million to create it, with an opening expected in 2025.

Other major memorials are in the works for two well-known school shootings, one at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and one at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. The state of New York is moving ahead with a memorial for 10 shoppers cut down in a Buffalo grocery store in 2022. A memorial for a massacre at a South Carolina church in 2015 is under construction.


Judith Dupre, who wrote “Monuments: America’s History in Art and Memory,” noted that memorials in general help people move forward.

“More important than the monument that is finally built is the work that proceeds it,” she wrote. “Finding a memorial’s most appropriate expression is a necessary psychological process that helps people work through issues, allowing resolution and healing.”

“You could say that the monument we see is the tip of the commemorative iceberg,” Dupre said.

The memorials that exist or are in the works around the country differ widely from one another, but they all share a common grief and a hope of healing. It’s worth looking at what’s been done elsewhere.

A fundraising effort is getting underway soon for the proposed Las Vegas memorial to honor victims of the worst mass shooting the country has witnessed. Fifty-eight people were gunned down at an outdoor concert on Oct. 1, 2017. JCJ Architecture

Forever One Memorial

At the Las Vegas site of the deadliest mass shooting in American history, where 58 people were gunned down at an outdoor concert on Oct. 1, 2017, Nevada authorities last year approved a memorial plan that includes an infinity-shaped walkway with a 58-foot Tower of Light and a plaza featuring 58 candle-like beams.


It will also have 22,000 points of light along its walkways in recognition of all the people who attended the 2017 Route 91 Harvest music festival that became the focus of a well-armed gunman barricaded in a hotel room overlooking the venue.

Though Clark County commissioners approved the project last year, its price tag is unclear. They are setting up a new nonprofit to oversee construction and raise the necessary funds.

A smaller-scale healing garden to honor the victims created soon after the shootings exists in a separate location in Las Vegas.

A simple memorial erected by the University of Texas honors victims of a mass shooting at the Austin campus in 1966. University of Texas

Texas Tower shooting memorial

In 1966, a gunman at the top of a tower in the middle of the University of Texas campus in Austin killed 15 people and injured 31 others over the course of an hour and a half, taking aim from its observation deck.

At the time, it was the deadliest shooting by a lone gunman in American history, an event that shocked the nation.


Nobody erected a memorial until 2016, when the university put up a stone slab with the names of the dead on it, including Baby Boy Wilson, who perished before his birth.

People visit a Walmart-commissioned memorial erected after 23 people were mowed down at its store in Cielo Vista, Texas, in 2019. The Grand Candela, filled with light, rises beside its parking lot. SWA Group

Walmart’s Grand Candela Memorial in El Paso

After 23 people were mowed down at Walmart’s Cielo Vista Mall in El Paso, Texas, in 2019, the retail giant hired SWA Group, an architectural firm with offices around the world, to create a memorial on the site.

The memorial designer said the 30-foot Grand Candela was “inspired by the motif of an everlasting candle and set in a plaza within the store’s parking lot” as a place of healing and remembrance.

“Columns of perforated metal, one for each life lost, are joined together in a luminous circle of unity,” SWA says on its website. It added that the memorial is tall enough “to be seen by the impacted community residing on both sides of the border.”

“During the day, the metal structure glimmers in the sunlight, the apertures of the individual columns become more discernible upon approach,” it says, while night lighting “lends a healing effect.”


“The memorial reads as a luminous beacon, a healing reminder of the community’s oneness,” SWA says.

In Aurora, Colo., the city put up a memorial to the victims of a 2012 movie theater shooting. It consists of images of cranes piled atop one another. City of Aurora

7/20 Memorial in Colorado

After a shooter in 2012 cut down 13 people in an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater – and left 58 others wounded – the community created a nonprofit to erect a memorial in their honor.

Dedicated in 2018, the memorial is meant to offer “a message of comfort, peace, hope and strength not only to those affected but to all who visit,” according to the Aurora city website. The 13 uppermost cranes have translucent wings “that glow in the sunlight” as they rise upward, a symbol of those who died.

The memorial was placed on a winding path with stone seating in the city’s reflection garden.

The 7/20 Foundation said it is dedicated “to all the victims and survivors of the shooting, first responders and their families. It is meant as a place for reflection, relaxation and meditation.”


Virginia Tech’s memorial in Blacksburg, Va., remembers the slaying of 32 people at its campus in 2007, the third worst mass shooting in American history. Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech memorial

After an armed student killed 32 people at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia, in 2007, volunteers quickly created a semicircle of what they called “Hokie Stones” on the drill field on campus. It became the place where people gathered to mourn and reflect.

Inspired by the improvised memorial, the university created a larger and permanent version of it, with 300-pound “Hokie Stones” engraved to honor the memory of the dead. There is also a single stone at the center of the memorial to honor all the victims, including the injured.

It “symbolizes our relentless spirit, our courage to move forward, and our determination never to forget,” the college says on its website.

Outside the Sutherland Springs Community Center in Sutherland Springs, Texas, is a small memorial honoring the victims of a 2017 mass shooting at a church that left 26 dead, the fifth-highest total in American history. A 6-foot angel was later added in the middle of the crosses. Justin Steenken photo

First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas

After a gunman killed 26 worshippers at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, in 2017, the congregation initially decided to preserve the century-old church as a memorial to the victims. Inside, they had white folding chairs marked with roses for each of the dead.


Following the construction of a new building in 2019, though, they changed their minds. They razed the old church two years ago.

A memorial stands in front of the Sutherland Springs Community Center. It features wooden crosses carrying the names of the victims arranged in a circle around a 6-foot illuminated angel. Twenty-six concrete blocks surround the small memorial.

A series of white pillars honor the victims of a mass shooting in 1984 at a McDonald’s restaurant in San Ysidro, Calif. The restaurant was razed and the property became part of Southwestern College, which allowed construction of the memorial between its building and the street. Google Maps

San Ysidro McDonald’s

Back in 1984, a man walked into a McDonald’s restaurant in San Ysidro, California, yelling, “I’m going to kill you all.” Then he opened fire, leaving 21 dead and 19 injured.

The fast-food chain quickly knocked down the building.

Six years later, after a college opened some new classrooms on the property, a $50,000 monument was added consisting of 21 hexagonal, white, marble pillars linked in rows to form a pyramid, according to a Los Angeles Times story about its dedication. The money came from donations.


Roberto Valdes, who designed it, told the Times each hexagon represented one of those who died.

“They are different heights, representing the variety of ages and races of the people involved in the massacre,” Valdes told the paper. “They are bonded together in the hopes that the community, in a tragedy like this, will stick together, like they did.”

A $1.5 million memorial in Littleton, Colo., honors the memory of the victims of the 1999 shooting at nearby Columbine High School. Library of Congress

A memorial for Columbine

Planning for the Columbine Memorial, erected in a park in Littleton, Colorado, began two months after the shooting of 12 students and a teacher in 1999. It took seven years and $1.5 million to finish.

Harriet Senie, author of “Memorials to Shattered Myths: Vietnam to 9/11,” said the memorial is “kind of a symbolic cemetery” with “a waist-high structure at its center, engraved with the names of each of the deceased,” along with a quote submitted by their families.

All of it is enclosed, Senie said, behind a semicircular wall with comments by people affected by the crime as well as some words from then-President Bill Clinton.


The Seed of Life memorial expected to open this summer in Dayton, Ohio, hopes to offer a place of solace for those reflecting on the Aug. 4, 2019, mass shooting that claimed nine lives. 8/4 Memorial

Memorial in Dayton

A $200,000 memorial called The Seed of Life is expected to be finished this summer in Dayton, Ohio, to remember the Aug. 4, 2019, mass shooting in the city’s Oregon District that left nine dead and 17 wounded.

Under construction in a plaza beside the restaurant where the shooting occurred, the four artists involved in the plan said that “in order to create a place of peace and healing,” they first need to “heal the place.”

“Rather than simply placing an object in the existing setting, we’ve chosen to recreate the entire plaza within the existing site,” they said, seeking “to balance the social and cultural conditions of the space with the need to design a quiet place of reflection.”

“These contrasting conditions can and should coexist as its daily function changes with time of day and night, and the days of the week over the course of the year,” they said, explaining their plan to create a mosaic, a sculpture, a 36-foot long curved bench and plantings.

Pulse project canceled


After the 2016 mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, where 49 people were slain and even more wounded, the community initially dreamed of a major memorial.

A newly formed foundation got $6.5 million in 2018 from a Florida county to buy the former nightclub property to create a museum and memorial on the site. It came up with a $50 million proposal for a museum, reflecting pool and gift shop.

Not everybody liked it, to put it mildly.

The Community Coalition Against a Pulse Museum, which included survivors and family members of those killed, opposed the plan because, it said, “money raised in the name of the mass shooting should go to the continued care of survivors.”

“A public memorial park that does not seek to capitalize on the mass shooting in any way is the only option for a just memorial,” it insisted.

Three months ago, the foundation pulled the plug on the plan, saying it could not raise the necessary funds to move forward.


The community still plans some sort of permanent memorial, but what it will be is up in the air.

The Sandy Hook Memorial in Newtown, Conn., opened in 2022 to offer the community a place of solace to remember the victims of the Dec. 14, 2012, school shooting that shocked the nation. SWA

Remembering Sandy Hook

Shortly before Christmas in 2012, a young man burst into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and killed six educators and 20 students, all of them 6 or 7 years old.

Within months, Newtown created a commission to begin planning a memorial. The panel worked for years with the families of victims and many others to come up with a project that fits the bill. Its members decided that whatever they did would be funded entirely by community members.

In 2021, Newtown voters approved a $3.7 million memorial that opened late in 2022 to general acclaim.

On a 5-acre parcel that overlooks the site where the school once stood is a granite water basin engraved with the names of victims at the center of a network of circling paths. A young sycamore tree, symbolizing the youth of most of the victims, stands at the center of the pool.


A writer for The New Yorker, Jesse Dorris, noted that “every monument evidences an event, but this one has a more complicated task.”

At Sandy Hook, Dorris found, it succeeded.

The magazine itself cited “the contemplative, unnerving beauty of the Sandy Hook Memorial.”

That the memorial attracts few visitors doesn’t seem to bother anyone.

It was built, after all, for the people who needed it most.

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