UNITED STATES NEWS

Lewiston bowling alley reopens 6 months after Maine’s deadliest mass shooting

May 2, 2024, 10:26 PM | Updated: May 3, 2024, 6:34 pm

LEWISTON, Maine (AP) — It’s a dilemma no business owner should have to face: whether to reopen after a mass shooting.

The answer didn’t come easily to Justin and Samantha Juray. But when they did decide to reopen their Maine bowling alley, they didn’t hold back.

When patrons returned Friday, six months after the gunman opened fire, they were impressed by the scenic images and messages of resilience at the end of each lane, bright paint on the walls and new floors. The Lewiston venue has undergone a complete makeover, giving it a vibrant, airy feel.

“It looks beautiful,” said Lena Galipeau, who works with a group of adults with disabilities who’d been anxious to return.

Samantha Juray gets emotional when recalling the events of Oct. 25, when the gunman killed eight people at the bowling alley before driving to a nearby bar and pool hall where he killed 10 more during the deadliest shooting in the state’s history. He later died by suicide.

“It’s never going to leave my head,” Juray said. “I think if we don’t move forward — not that there was a point to this whole thing anyway — but we’re just going to allow the people that have taken so much from us win.”

Justin Juray initially was dead-set against reopening and they also got some negative outside feedback. But that all changed, she said, as people in Lewiston rallied behind them. Within weeks, they knew they had to reopen, Samantha Juray said.

They decided to keep the same name: Just-In-Time Recreation. They call it that because when they bought the venue three years ago, the owner was days away from shutting it down. It also fits with Justin’s name.

John Robinson attended the reopening with his son Colin, who was there with his mother the night of the shooting. Robinson said it was emotional to return to the bowling alley — he’d also been to an earlier soft launch with families — but it also felt like a weight had been lifted. He knew all those who died at the bowling alley and counted them as friends.

“I can’t say how great this day is,” he said. “An opportunity to celebrate their lives. To celebrate the rebirth of Just-In-Time.”

He said the reopening was important for bowlers across the region because there aren’t many places to bowl in Maine and they’re spread out.

Across the country, people have taken varied approaches after mass shootings. Barbara Poma, the former owner of the Pulse nightclub in Florida where 49 people were killed in 2016, said every situation and community is different.

“You are suddenly thrown into a state of shock, and emotions dictate your thoughts,” Poma said in an email. “Eventually you are forced to make a critical business decision based on how it will impact others emotionally and publicly. There just is no easy or right answer.”

The City of Orlando last year agreed to buy the Pulse nightclub site to create a memorial.

In Aurora, Colorado, a movie theater where 12 people were killed in 2012 later reopened under a new name. Buffalo’s Tops Friendly Market reopened in 2022, two months after 10 Black people were killed.

In Newtown, Connecticut, Sandy Hook Elementary School was razed, and there also are plans to bulldoze Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

In Lewiston, Kathy Lebel, who owns the second business hit by the gunman, Schemengees Bar & Grille, also hopes to reopen at a different venue.

At the bowling alley, Tom Giberti said people are “so excited to get us back.”

Giberti, who has worked at the bowling alley for 20 years, is credited with saving the lives of at least four children the night of the shooting. He ushered them along a narrow walkway between the lanes to an area behind the pins. Before Giberti could get to safety himself, he was shot in both legs and hit with shrapnel.

After undergoing surgery, it wasn’t long before Giberti stopped using the mobility walker he’d been given. These days, he enjoys playing golf and shows few physical signs of his injuries as he strides about the bowling alley.

A lot of people in Lewiston have helped get the venue reopened, he said.

“The community has been phenomenal,” Giberti said. “They’ve been right here for us, they’ve been supporting us.”

The makeover of the bowling alley includes a new scoring system and many tributes, including a table featuring pictures of the eight who died at Just-In-Time, and bowling pins with the names of the 18 shooting victims from both venues.

Among those killed were two bowling alley staff members. Most of the staff who survived are returning to work at the venue.

Samantha Juray said they are fully prepared to serve customers again and can’t wait to see the familiar faces of regulars as they get used to a new normal.

“This is us, standing back up again,” said Lewiston Mayor Carl Sheline at a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday afternoon that packed the bowling alley. “With all of you here, it’s very clear. Lewiston can never be kept down.”

When it was the Jurays turn to speak, Justin turned to the crowd.

“You’re the reason,” he said, as he raised his arms to thunderous cheers. “This is why. This is why we decided to reopen.”

___

Associated Press writer David Sharp in Portland, Maine, contributed to this report.

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Lewiston bowling alley reopens 6 months after Maine’s deadliest mass shooting