Sara Welch was with her husband and 8-year-old daughter at their weekly bowling practice for the child’s league Wednesday night when she heard what sounded like the pop of a balloon.
“We saw someone fall,” Welch, 32, said through tears in the parking lot of the family reunification center at Auburn Middle School on Thursday morning. “And we heard another pop when we ran. We just kept running.”
Welch said she grabbed her daughter and another child and ran to shelter in a nearby Subway.
The league’s coach, whom she declined to name, died in the shooting. The person had coached her daughter since she was in kindergarten, and Welch was seeking out grief counseling at the middle school to help her daughter process the events.
”They were the happiest person,” she said of the coach. “Just truly humble.”
Across the lawn at the middle school Thursday morning, Brenda Hathaway, eight months pregnant with a toddler by her side, paced back and forth on the phone. Hathaway, 38, was at Schemengees Bar and Grille on Wednesday night when her toddler, Lilian, started to get fussy. She ended up leaving early while her husband, Maxx Hathaway, stayed behind to play pool.
She hasn’t heard from him since, and has been trying to reach anyone who may have information. She has called every hospital and is trying desperately to remember the faces of the people in the restaurant. She couldn’t hold back the tears.
”If those people could remember [Lilian] they could tell me if they saw my husband get shot,” she said, clutching printed photos of her husband, who is 36. “But I would have no idea how to reach them.”
Hathaway was accompanied by her next-door-neighbor, Jo-Anne Gregoire, who said she’s never seen anything like this in her 51 years in Lewiston. She watched Lilian toddle around clutching two stuffed animals Gregoire had brought for the child.
”She can’t get any information. She’s eight months pregnant. She’s a mess,” Gregoire, 74, said. “She needs something to hold onto right now.”
Von Scott, a longtime Auburn resident, said he heard the news of the first attack at Schemengees on Wednesday night from a friend almost immediately after it occurred. There are many in his group of friends, he said, who are waiting on answers about their loved ones.
”A good friend of mine knows three people who got shot… and we just don’t know what’s going on,” he said. “There’s so many people trying to call the hospitals, at some point I just put the phone down.”
Another of Scott’s friends called him minutes after learning that four of the men on his neighborhood softball team were dead.
“He said four of the guys died playing corn hole at the bar, and a fifth is in the ICU,” Scott said, adding that it was hard to find the right words to comfort his friend. “He’s a strong guy… but this is hard.”
What Scott found most appalling was that no one tried to stop the shooter.
”Really what shocks me is that nobody shot back at him,” Scott said. “Part of safety in Maine is that everybody carries.”