Maine mass shooting personal for Bates College community, students recount experiences

FOX 9 reporter Paul Blume is a Bates College graduate, a school that is still on lockdown as of Thursday night while law enforcement continues its search for the suspect of a mass shooting in Lewiston, Maine that left at least 18 people dead. 

The school has a current student body of about 1,800 and is located in the heart of the City of Lewiston. The campus sits right between the two mass shooting scenes Wednesday night. The liberal arts institution sent out a bulletin to its community, reporting two students were in the vicinity of the gunfire, but were not hurt. 

The college said a school employee was injured, but is expected to make a full recovery. The campus remained on lockdown with shelter-in-place orders continuing more than 24 hours later.

Blume spent Thursday reconnecting with his Bates network, speaking to several members of the community about their feelings and experiences since the gunfire shattered the peace and quiet of Lewiston.

"I was actually very nervous," Bates sophomore Kaitlyn O’Shaughnessy told Blume via Zoom, from her campus dorm room. "I didn't really, especially because, I did not really know anything. So, I was not sure if he was on campus, or if, he was like, how far away he was. So, I wasn't sure like how safe we were."

O’Shaughnessy recounted her experience with the mass shooting and frantic manhunt as it unfolded around her in real time. Lewiston, the Bates campus, and surrounding areas were thrust into complete lockdown in the aftermath of the shootings. There was such confusion and panic in those hours as no one knew the location of the suspected gunman Robert Card, his motives, or whether there were additional armed shooters on the run.

O’Shaughnessy and her club hockey teammates were eating a late dinner in the cafeteria when the whole building, typically open to public access, was shut down and locked up.

"So, I was like panicking in that sense too, because we are also like the biggest, most central building on campus. So, I was stressed about that. But then we all went upstairs, and then they eventually locked all the doors and they closed all the blinds and I felt much safer once they did that," she explained. 

O’Shaughnessy and the other students locked down in the cafeteria facilities would spend the entire night there before being escorted with secure rides back to dorm rooms after 7 a.m.

Bates senior Cole De Magistris, who was a Minnesota Vikings intern over the summer, wrote to Blume from his lockdown location on campus, "As you can imagine, the mood is somber and sorrowful. I am currently in lockdown with my classmates trying to process this unbelievable tragedy. Please pray for my Lewiston community. If you’re Bates alum - you know."

Bates College was about to celebrate the inauguration of its new school President Garry W. Jenkins on Friday. Those festivities have been postponed. Jenkins was most recently Dean at the University of Minnesota Law School.