LeRoy Walker Sr. walks these days with a certain weight on his shoulders — carrying with him the loss of his son Joseph.
"You don't ever wish this on your enemy, if you have one. It's just too much to cope with day in and day out," Walker said.
Joseph Walker was gunned down during last month's mass shooting in Lewiston, Maine.
He was with some friends at Schemengees Bar and Grill when a gunman opened fire at the bar and at a bowling alley. The 57-year-old was among the 18 lives lost that night.
"The loneliness and not being able to have my son, it feels worse now than it was the first few days," Walker added.
A month later the media is mostly gone. Cameras have turned away. But LeRoy Walker soldiers on.
Walker has spent 14 years as a city councilor in nearby Auburn. But this was his first election without his son. On a recent Tuesday morning, he stood outside a polling location in town, dutifully accepting hugs and words of comfort. Many of the constituents he greeted were grieving much in the same way he was.
"So sorry for your loss," one person said as they walked by.
Last month's deadly mass shooting will always be woven into the history of Lewiston. It's part of the reason why Rachel Ferrante with the Maine Museum of Innovation Learning and Labor has enlisted the help of local artists to collect memorial items left behind in memory of the victims. Crosses, pictures and posters all now sit inside the downtown Lewiston museum.
"This is a big part of our history now. So it felt like our responsibility to collect these memorial items. We hope this begins to help heal the community. First and foremost it's a memorial for the victims. We hope this begins a long healing process and people can find strength here," Ferrante said.
There is one part of this community perhaps hit harder than most by this tragedy. Four of the victims of the mass shooting were deaf — friends, all partaking in a cornhole tournament. Regan Thibodeau is an interpreter in Maine and knew one of the victims.
"We've never experienced this before. Never in America has the deaf community been impacted. The number of people who were murdered who were deaf is unprecedented," Thibodeau said.
Thibodeau said this tragedy has shed light on how the deaf community needs to be considered, no matter the tragedy.
"When people mobilize to confront chaos and tragedy always provide the consideration of deaf people. We can't be an afterthought when this kind of thing is happening," Thibodeau said.
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