Napkins with messages from Southwest Airlines passengers written shortly after the Oct. 25, 2023, mass shooting in Lewiston were used by L.L. Bean to create a book for a museum dedicated to Lewiston’s darkest day. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

LEWISTON — Shortly after the mass shooting Oct. 25, 2023, a crisis counselor with a therapy dog named Cooper hopped on a Southwest Airlines plane to head to Maine to aid a wounded community.

While in the air between Dallas and New York City, passengers began scrawling messages for Lewiston on the airline’s surprisingly durable paper napkins.

Andy Garmezy, a volunteer with the National Crisis Response Canines, gave them to L.L.Bean, which had hired him. It created books featuring the messages, which were recently given to the city and Maine MILL, and handed over the napkins themselves to the Lewiston-based museum.

“You’ve always been Lewiston Strong,” wrote a Bates College student named Kate who was on board. “Keep going. We love you.”

A health professional at Maine Medical Center charted the course of recovery from tragic events. Eventually, the note said, “It gets better. Sort of.”

Maine MILL Executive Director Rachel Ferrante opens a book Monday afternoon at the Maine MILL in the Bates Mill Complex in Lewiston. L.L. Bean created the book for the museum with notes written on napkins from a Southwest Airlines flight shortly after the mass shooting Oct. 25, 2023, in Lewiston. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Most of the notes offered prayers and well wishes.


“Much love from New Brunswick,” one said.

Another said that “in a world where there seems to be no love, know that Southwest Airlines Flight 1843 is full of people praying for all the families that went through this horrific act of pain. Love and prayers for all those in Lewiston, Maine.”

Rachel Ferrante, executive director of the museum, said a copy of the book will be available at the special exhibit on the mass shooting. A second copy is going in the museum’s archives, she said.

Ferrante said she isn’t sure what to do with napkins, but will preserve them for possible exhibition someday.

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.