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

LEWISTON, Maine– It’s a dilemma no business owner should face: whether to reopen after a mass shooting.

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

When customers return Friday, six months after the shooter opened fire, they will see inspiring images at the end of each aisle, vibrant paint on the walls and new floors. The Lewiston location has undergone a complete transformation, giving it a vibrant and airy atmosphere.

Samantha Juray becomes emotional as she recalls the events of October 25, when the gunman killed eight people at the bowling alley before going to a nearby bar and pool hall where he killed 10 others in the deadliest shooting in the history of the state. He then committed suicide.

“It will never leave my mind,” Juray said this week, as she made final reopening preparations. “I think if we don’t move forward – not that any of this makes sense anyway – but we’re just going to allow the people who took so much from us to win.”

Justin Juray was initially strongly against reopening and they also received negative feedback from outside. But everything changed, she said, as Lewiston residents rallied around 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 place three years ago, the owner was about to close it. This also matches Justin’s name.

Across the country, people have taken varying approaches after mass shootings. Barbara Poma, 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. “Ultimately, you are forced to make a critical business decision based on the emotional and public impact it will have on others. There is simply no easy or right answer.”

Last year, the city of Orlando agreed to purchase the site of the Pulse nightclub to create a memorial.

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

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

In Lewiston, Kathy Lebel, owner of the second business hit by the shooter, Schemengees Bar & Grille also hopes to reopen in a different location.

At the bowling alley, Tom Giberti said people were “so excited to have 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 led them along a narrow passage between the lanes to an area behind the bowling pins. Before Giberti could get to safety himself, he was shot in both legs and hit by shrapnel.

After undergoing surgery, Giberti was quick to stop using the walker he was provided with. These days, he enjoys playing golf and shows few physical signs of his injuries when he walks around the bowling alley.

Many people in Lewiston helped get the place reopened, he said.

“The community has been phenomenal,” Giberti said. “They were there for us, they supported us.”

The bowling alley renovation includes a new scoring system and numerous tributes, including a board featuring photos of the eight just-in-time deaths and pins with the names of the 18 shooting victims from both locations.

Among those killed were two members of the bowling alley staff. Most of the employees who survived returned to work on site.

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

Among those planning to speak at a ceremony Friday afternoon is Maine Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat.

“I’m excited to open,” Juray said. “I know it’s definitely going to be a very long day, and probably an emotional day.”

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

ABC News

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