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People show their support as Maine bowling alley reopens 6 months after a mass shooting

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Six months ago, a gunman killed 18 people and wounded more than a dozen others at a bowling alley and a bar in Lewiston, Maine. Unlike some businesses that are demolished or shuttered after mass shootings, the bowling alley has reopened. As Susan Sharon of Maine Public Radio reports, hundreds of people turned out to show their support.

JUSTIN JURAY: We did it. Thank you.

SUSAN SHARON, BYLINE: There were hugs and tears and counselors on hand as owners Justin and Samantha Juray welcomed everyone to the newly refurbished Just-In-Time Recreation.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Thank you for having us.

J JURAY: Hey, guys. Come on in.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Thank you for opening.

(SOUNDBITE OF KNOCKING DOWN PINS)

JOHN ROBINSON: That's a pretty good ball there, right? Throw that again. We'll try it with a couple of different balls.

SHARON: John Robinson and his 18-year-old son, Colin, wasted no time getting back into the swing of things with bowling practice. John is a volunteer bowling coach who says they wanted to be here to honor their friends who were killed.

ROBINSON: We lost one of our youth coaches, a tremendous man. Coach Bob was a tremendous guy and very, very integral part of our youth bowling community.

SHARON: Bob Violette and his wife, Lucy, were both killed, along with six others at the bowling alley. Robinson says his son Colin and his wife, Jen, were here the night of the shootings. Jen's not ready to come back. And Robinson says Colin continues to struggle with the tragedy. But when he bowls, he makes a point of remembering those who were lost.

ROBINSON: We don't have it on right now, but when he bowls in competition, we have a Lewiston strong wristband. Every time he throws a strike, he holds it up.

SHARON: Everyone has a different way of processing their trauma from the shootings caused by a man who later killed himself, leaving the town in grief.

For manager Tom Giberti, the return to work has come in stages. He first came back after he was released from the hospital. He was shot in both legs but not before he was able to get multiple children to safety through a back door.

TOM GIBERTI: The hero word was thrown out there, and I just don't accept that. I don't. You know, I hate that word. I don't feel myself in that, you know? I'm glad I was at the right place at the right time. I was here for a reason.

SHARON: While he was recovering, Giberti says the hardest part was not being able to attend his friends' and co-workers' funerals. But he's grateful to be back and to see the bowling alley renovations - new flooring, paint and a brand-new scoring system.

GIBERTI: It's been a big change here. So that's been really nice to be able to see and be able to kind of let go. And I think that's what today is going to do. It's kind of, like, close one door, open the next one to be able to move on.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: So to Justin and Sam and their resilience, please help me welcome them today.

(CHEERING)

SHARON: At a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by state and local dignitaries, Justin and Samantha Juray said they couldn't have gotten to this point alone.

SAMANTHA JURAY: I just want to thank everybody for coming here and supporting us. If we didn't have all of you, then we definitely wouldn't have been able to open our doors back up.

J JURAY: You're the reason. This is why. This is why we decided to reopen, right here.

(CHEERING)

SHARON: Justin has previously said they would not let the tragedy define them. And with the reopening, he and hundreds of others showed that they will not. For NPR News, I'm Susan Sharon in Lewiston, Maine. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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