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

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

The answer wasn't easy for Justin and Samantha Juray. But when they decided to reopen their restaurant Bowling alley in Mainethey didn't hold back.

As guests returned Friday, six months after the gunman opened fire, they were impressed by the picturesque images and messages of resilience at the end of each alley, the bright paint on the walls and the new floors. The Lewiston venue has been completely remodeled, giving it a lively, airy feel.

“It looks beautiful,” said Lena Galipeau, who works with a group of adults with disabilities who were eager to return.

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

“It will never get out of my mind,” Juray said. “I think if we don't move forward – not that there's any point to this whole thing – we're just going to allow the people who took so much from us to win.”

Justin Juray was originally strongly against reopening and also received some negative feedback from outside. But that all changed, she said, when the people of Lewiston rallied behind them. Within a few weeks, they knew they had to reopen, Samantha Juray said.

They decided to keep the name: Just-In-Time Recreation. They call it that because when they bought the venue three years ago, the owner was days away from closing it. It also fits 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 returning to the bowling alley – he had also been to a soft launch with the family before – but it also felt like a weight had been lifted. He knew everyone who died at the bowling alley and counted them as friends.

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

He said the reopening is important for bowlers across the region because there aren't many places to bowl in Maine and they are scattered.

Across the country, people responded differently to mass shootings. Barbara Poma, the former owner of the Pulse nightclub in Florida where 49 people were killed in 2016, said every situation and every community is different.

“Suddenly you go into shock and emotions dominate your thoughts,” Poma said in an email. “Ultimately, you are forced to make an important business decision based on the emotional and public impact it will have on others. There is simply no easy or right answer.”

The city of Orlando last year agreed to the purchase the grounds of the Pulse nightclub 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 2022two months after the murder of ten black people.

In Newtown, Connecticut, Sandy Hook Elementary School was destroyedand there are plans for that too Bulldozer at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

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

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 walkway between the alleys to an area behind the posts. Before Giberti could get himself to safety, he was shot in both legs and hit by shrapnel.

After the surgery, it didn't take long for Giberti to stop using the walker he had been given. These days, he enjoys playing golf and shows few physical signs of his injuries when he runs around the bowling alley.

Many people in Lewiston contributed to the venue's reopening, he said.

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

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

Two bowling alley employees were among those killed. Most of the surviving employees return 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 adjust to the new normal.

“This is us getting up again,” Lewiston Mayor Carl Sheline said at a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday afternoon that packed the bowling alley. “When you are all here, it is very clear. Lewiston can never be suppressed.”

When it was the Jurays' turn, Justin addressed the crowd.

“You are the reason,” he said, raising his arms in a thunderous cheer. “For this reason. For this reason we have decided to reopen.”

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

Anna Harden

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