Another mass shooting, and more voices step forward

Jess Paquette expresses her support for her city in the wake of Wednesday's mass shootings at a restaurant and bowling alley, Thursday, Oct. 26, 2023, in Lewiston, Maine. Police continue their manhunt for the suspect. Authorities urged residents to lock themselves in their homes and schools announced closures on Thursday. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

Jess Paquette expresses her support for her city in the wake of Wednesday's mass shootings at a restaurant and bowling alley, Thursday, Oct. 26, 2023, in Lewiston, Maine. Police continue their manhunt for the suspect. Authorities urged residents to lock themselves in their homes and schools announced closures on Thursday. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty) Robert F. Bukaty

Dan Dalphonse. By RAY DUCKLER

Dan Dalphonse. By RAY DUCKLER —

Leah Soloperto. By RAY DUCKLER

Leah Soloperto. By RAY DUCKLER —

Michelle Coleman-Dion. By RAY DUCKLER

Michelle Coleman-Dion. By RAY DUCKLER —

Jordan Patterson. By RAY DUCKLER

Jordan Patterson. By RAY DUCKLER —

By RAY DUCKLER

Monitor columnist

Published: 10-28-2023 4:39 PM

Modified: 10-28-2023 6:59 PM


This time, it felt different. It felt closer.

This time, the shooting occurred 70 miles from Berlin, Dan Dalphonse’s hometown growing up, and less than 80 miles from his favorite camping spot.

The number of dead, killed in the latest mass shooting, this time in Lewiston, Maine, stood at 18 by the weekend. Perhaps people around here received a stronger jolt than they had felt following past shootings. Lewiston and its population, around the same as Concord’s, had northern New England written all over it.

“I lived there 20 years,” Dalphonse, 75, said. “It’s our neighboring state, not two hours away. What if he decided to drive a little further?”

Dalphonse was an art teacher at Merrimack Valley High School for 29 years. He retired in 2009. He said he has family still living in the Berlin area. His stepmother, aunts, uncles.

He spoke downtown Thursday, the day after the shootings, in front of a coffee shop with his bulldog, Little Richard. Guns are important to Dalphonse. He hunted for deer with his family while growing up in Berlin.

“For sustenance,” Dalphonse said. “We ate venison three times a week.”

Pro-gun all the way, Dalphonse balanced his comments, saying background checks and waiting periods remained important in determining who should be granted a license.

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So he focused someplace else.

“The mental health issue in the state and the country is ignored,” Dalphonse. “We don’t have anything in place because we are stingy and cheap when it comes to healthcare. Say, ‘mental illness,’ and everyone thinks you’re Jeffrey Dahmer.”

Discussions about guns and mental illness surface each time another massacre occurs. Only the number of people killed changes.

The settings are music festivals, grocery stores, synagogues, churches and, on Wednesday night in Lewiston, a bowling alley and a bar named Schemengees. People around here know that name, from vacations and road trips.

And, of course, there are schools. Jordan Stewart thinks about school safety now, and she’ll think about it more once her children, Josie, 3 years old, and Jonah, 1, begin school.

She grew up in Bow and lives in Bradford. Josie squirmed in the front section of the stroller while Jonah, calm, smiled.

“When I was growing up, it was not a concern with me,” said Jordan, 33. “Columbine was not close to home, and it’s something that didn’t affect me at all when I was in school, but it’s something now that I know is going to affect my kids their entire lives, and it’s something they’re going to have to think about when they go to school every day.”

Meanwhile, Leah Soloperto of Henniker, 36, has read a lot about the murders, including reports about Robert Card, the alleged killer who was found dead Friday night from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. News outlets had been saying that Card spent two weeks in a mental facility last summer.

“He was hearing voices and he should have gotten more help, and we need to take care of our soldiers,” Soloperto said. “They made it seem like it was a mental illness kind of thing. If he’s hearing voices, why was he only in the hospital for a week or two?”

She was chilled by the mere fact that this tragedy happened “close by, more than most of the others.”

And she took things a step further, saying we live in an angry society, more so than usual. She’s seen road rage up close. She said someone recently followed her on Interstate 93, screaming at her through an open window because she had been late turning on her headlights. She called the cops.

“I don’t know if it’s COVID or what,” Soloperto said. “It just seems like the last few years, there has been more violence, and you can see it with road rage.”

Elsewhere, Michelle Coleman-Dion of Henniker, looking stylish in a straw hat and colorful flowers circling above the rim, defended guns and the right for Americans to own them. She was a painting subcontractor and is retired.

She owns a .38 Special and target shoots once a week in either Henniker or Hillsboro. She’s a member of American Legion Post 59 in Hillsboro. Her late husband was a Vietnam veteran who returned home with a troubled mind.

“He had issues, survivor guilt,” Coleman-Dion said. “He saw his commanding officer get killed. It makes me very sad.”

No debate there. Apart far from partisan politics and callous behavior inside government, Coleman-Dion mentioned the one universal truth that everyone can rally around in search of a solution.

“My first thought is that those poor people were just out bowling and drinking,” Coleman-Dion said. “They were trying to have fun, and someone with a horrible agenda kills them.

“For no rhyme or reason.”