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A mass shooting in Lewiston overnight that left at least 18 people dead and 13 injured is putting all of Maine on edge, prompting business closures and hospitals standing ready to treat shooting victims.
"This is a dark day for Maine," Gov. Janet Mills said in a morning press conference from Lewiston. Speaking in a hoarse voice, she mentioned that Lewiston is where she had met and married her husband.
"I love this place, just as I love the whole state with my entire heart," she said. "I’m so deeply saddened.”
The suspect was still at large Thursday morning, and police gave few details about the manhunt.
On LinkedIn on Wednesday, Lewiston Mayor Carl Sheline posted a message of support along with a photo of an illuminated City Hall Tower. "Stay strong, City of Lewiston," Sheline said.
Across the river in Auburn, Mayor Jason Levesque pledged his city's support for Lewiston in the days and weeks to come.
“We will stand beside our sister city," he said. "This shocking incident has brought unthinkable pain and grief to our community, and the only way through this will be together. On behalf of the city council, and the people of Auburn, I offer my heartfelt condolences to the victims and their families affected by this senseless violence.”
Dr. John Alexander, chief medical officer at Central Maine Healthcare in Lewiston, said in a Thursday press conference that 14 critically ill patients from the shooting were brought into the hospital for treatment in a 45-minute span.
"The situation unfolded very quickly," he said.
Of the eight patient still at the hospital on Thursday, five are in stable condition and three are in critical condition, he said, without going into detail about their gender, ages or conditions.
In a statement on Wednesday, Maine Medical Center said it had alerted on-call staff and created critical care and operating room capacity in anticipation of potential patient transports coming from the shooting.
At that time, Maine Med said it had confirmed it will receive one patient transport from Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston. Other MaineHealth facilities are also standing by and preparing to provide care.
Citing an abundance of caution and the dynamic nature of the situation, MaineMed said that it and other MaineHealth hospitals have closed their campuses to non-hospital personnel and non-patients until further notice.
"MaineHealth and Maine Medical Center express their deepest sympathies to those impacted by this tragedy," they said.
Schools in Auburn and Lewiston stayed closed on Thursday as law enforcement continues to search for the suspect.
Many schools throughout the state were also closed for the day, including the University of Southern Maine which has cancelled classes in Portland, Gotham and Lewiston. Remote and online events were also cancelled.
All Bureau of Motor Vehicle branches across Maine are closed on Thursday.
Maine state courts and facilities in Lewiston and Auburn are closed today, Oct. 26. This includes the Lewiston District Court, Auburn Superior Court and the Violations Bureau/Service Center.
Portland closed city buildings to the public on Thursday except for City Hall and 39 Forest Ave.,which houses a public health clinic and general administrative offices, with a police presence on site at both locations. Portland Public Schools also announced it has closed for the day.
At the Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, President and CEO Shanna Cox assured members in an email that chamber staff members and families are safe and that many staffers will be working remotely on Thursday.
“In the coming days, there will be many challenges for us to face," she wrote. "I have seen the strength of our community before, and I have faith in our ability to join together with each other, and for each other. Check on each other, and do what you can for those you can. As you give, please also receive - and allow others to care for you as you need it.”
The email also listed resources on where to find the current status of school closings, where to find places to give support including the Red Cross Blood Donation Center in Lewiston and where to get support.
“As coordinated community support emerges, we will work with anyone (regardless of membership) to support the needs of businesses and communities across the county," she noted. "If you need a large meeting space as part of your efforts to respond to our community needs or can think of other ways for us to support you and our community, reach out.”
Events around the state were canceled, including the Maine State Chamber of Commerce annual dinner that had been scheduled to take place Thursday evening in Portland.
“The senseless, unspeakable scale of violence has taken loved ones away from families and punctured the tranquility of the famously tight Lewiston-Auburn community,” said Patrick Woodcock, the chamber's president and CEO. “Our attention, heart and prayers are with the victims of this tragedy, their loved ones, and the community of Lewiston and Auburn. We thank local, state, and federal law enforcement and join the entire state in mourning this devastating tragedy.”
The Chamber said it will reschedule its event and celebrate the awardees at an appropriate time.
The Portland International Jetport remained open and flights were operating Thursday morning.
"Our partners at Portland Police and the Department of Homeland Security have increased patrols out of an abundance of caution," according to a statement. "Passengers under a shelter in place order or who are not comfortable leaving their home should contact their airline to rebook to later flights."
In Washington, D.C., President Joe Biden reached out to U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, and offered any federal assistance he can provide to help the people of Maine, King’s office said in an emailed statement.
“Given the horrific nature of the events in Maine, Sen. King will now be headed to Maine on one of the first flights available – he wants to be home to support Lewiston in any way he can,” the statement said.
-Alexis Wells contributed to this report.