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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 have to face: whether to reopen after a mass shooting.

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

When visitors return Friday, six months after the gunman opened fire, they will see inspiring pictures at the end of each alley, bright paint on the walls and new floors. The Lewiston venue has been completely remodeled, giving it a lively, airy feel.

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

“It will never be out of my mind,” Juray said this week as she made final preparations for reopening. “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.

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 agreed last year to purchase the site of the Pulse nightclub to build a memorial.

In Aurora, Colorado, a movie theater where 12 people were killed in 2012 later reopened under a new name. The Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo reopened in 2022, two months after 10 Black people were killed.

In Newtown, Connecticut, Sandy Hook Elementary School was razed, and there are also plans to raze 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.

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

“I’m looking forward to the opening,” said Juray. “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.

Anna Harden

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