Caleb Albert, a freshman sport management major at Elon University, said he heard of the Oct. 25 shootings near his hometown — Auburn, Maine — through a group text of friends from home.

“I was in shock. I didn't know what to think,” Albert said. “I knew my family was out in a different town and knew they had to come back that night, so I was just worried about that the whole time.”

On Oct. 25, a gunman killed 18 people and injured 13 others in Lewiston, Maine — the second most populous city in Maine, following the capital, Portland — in shootings at the Just-In-Time Recreation bowling alley and Schemengees Bar and Grille, according to the Associated Press

Albert, who still has friends in high schools and colleges in the Lewiston area, said he was at a loss for words.

“I was just speechless. I was like, ‘This isn't real. This isn't something that can happen to my home.’ There's been shootings around our area, but nothing has been this severe,” Albert said. “I didn't know if this was actually a real thing.”

He said he was worried about his family.

“I was scared for them. Probably the most scared I've ever been for my family. And it's even worse because I was farther away from them,” Albert said. “But the people back home were just in disbelief that something like this could happen, and that someone from Maine would do something like this in our area — especially because Maine is so connected and such a tight community.”

Katie Bennert, a senior majoring in journalism, is from Cumberland, Maine — around 25 miles from Lewiston. Bennert said she was terrified when she heard about the shootings and reached out to her parents and friends who still live in the area.

“I was still texting everybody because I was really worried. I did not sleep very much that night because I just wanted to make sure that everyone I knew was okay,” Bennert said. “I was really worried that one day I was going to look at this list and see somebody I knew. I did not know anybody personally, but I knew people who knew people so that was all very hard to grapple with.”

Though Bennert did not personally know any of the victims, she said she empathizes with her community.

“My family thankfully is all okay,” Bennert said. “I'm very grateful that everyone that I know and that's close to me is okay, but it's also really devastating to know that that really easily could have been my family.”

Bennert said it is terrifying to think about how close this happened to her home.

“It was literally 20 minutes from where I grew up my entire life. That was something I feel like I could not put into words well at all,” Bennert said. “I could not do anything. I even didn’t come to class the next day. I had to keep talking to my family. I had to check in.” 

She said it was hard to be far from home.

“After that you really want to be with your family and know that everyone's safe and that you can be with these people,” Bennert said. “It was hard to be here, actually.”

Bennert said Maine is a safe state — which made this all the more surprising. 

“We did not have a murder within 50 miles of us my entire life, so for something like this to happen, it really is completely out of what would normally happen in Maine,” Bennert said. “Maine is a very safe place and you go to Maine to raise your children because it's such a safe place. that's something that I never took for granted.”

She said one of her high school friend’s father had friends die in the shooting.

“I'm very, very lucky that it was not any closer to home,” Bennert said. “However, even just knowing that somebody I knew knows other people that died in something as horrific as this was shocking and something that I've still kind of been trying to deal with and process because I definitely have not processed it still a week later.”

Brandon Ellis, a sophomore business analytics major from Brunswick, Maine — just under 20 miles from Lewiston — said he Maine is a close knit community.

According to the Elon University fall registrar’s report, 33 students are from Maine — while 1,186 students are from the New England area. 

“Although Maine is a very big state, it's like a small town. It's a very tight-knit community,” Ellis said. “Although we personally didn't know anyone, I'm sure we knew people who knew people.”

Ellis said his family and friends were scared in the moment but are better now.

“Since the shooter has been found, they're less worried now and more supporting the victims, just coming together as a community,” Ellis said.

He said the Maine community has come together in the past few days.

“They're showing solidarity with Lewiston,” Ellis said. “They're wearing blue and white ribbons — which are the colors of Lewiston High School — to show solidarity and I know people are coming together.”

Albert said he is shocked this happened so close to his home.

“I'm happy that it's over,” Albert said. “I'm still just in disbelief that it actually happened. It hasn't really totally processed yet, that this is a real thing. You never really think it's a real thing that can happen until it happens to your home.”

Albert said he and his family had connections to two victims and is still processing what happened.

“I'm still just recovering and making sure that people are already texting people back home to make sure that people they know and their loved ones are all right is your family.”

Albert said he wants to go home to see his family.

“I miss it more. But I know that my family is safe now. And I know that people I know are safe,” Albert said. “I still want to go home really bad to see my family and see their faces again.”