The story came on last night just as we were getting ready to go to bed.

The figures appeared against a blood-red background. In the next few days the number would change. But these first numbers floated into our lives.

We’ve been getting greater, darker numbers since the war between Israel and Hamas started a week ago. I reached for the remote, eager to fall into bed without another set of numbers.

Thousands have already died in this distant cloud of blood. Why post such a small number at the end of a day in safe, quiet Maine?

I picked up the remote and pointed it at the big screen for one last story from MSNBC before going upstairs.

“Oh, no,” She groaned,“ Not before bed. Let’s end with something soft.”


Then the familiar faces of our daily local news flashed on, with a young man standing in the dark outside a hospital — not in Israel. In Lewiston, Maine.

“Turn it off, and let’s go to bed,” She said.

The young reporter clutched his mic and spoke the words.

It wasn’t Tel Aviv. It wasn’t the border of the Gaza Strip. These weren’t Jewish or Palestinian numbers; they were American numbers, on our doorstep.

The headline behind him in white letters against a red background grew larger. Lewiston, Maine.

How was that possible?


It must have been a fire. Where? A fire so big, so sudden, that it could take the lives of so many humans in such a short time?

It wasn’t a fire. And it wasn’t a school bus at this time of night.

Lewiston? We had only been there once, on a cold autumn night when we and some friends decided to try a new restaurant.

It was a nice place, warm décor, good food, good service. But there was something else about Lewiston, Maine, something familiar, something good? Something happy? What was it?

10:30 p.m.: My youngest, with her super memory picking up the news from LA, called.

“Lewiston,” she said. “That’s where we bought Gatsby. We were in Maine visiting mémère ,and pépère … don’t you remember? And we couldn’t take him on the plane, so we bought a Chevy Vega and drove back to LA with Gatsby,” don’t you remember”?


No, I didn’t. My memory now is a flawed forest.

Then it did.

We bought a new car for thousands of dollars, and then a $100 Old English Sheepdog in a mall pet shop, and by the time we got to Kansas, my two daughters had named him “Gatsby.”

Someone once said, “There’s nothing to do in Lewiston.” Yes, there is. You can buy a sheepdog for a hundred bucks in a pet shop, and a Chevy Vega to drive him to far-away Los Angeles where he became famous.

That was the last time I went to Lewiston, the second largest city in Maine.

She sat up in her chair. “That’s Bates College. Something must have happened at Bates. Oh! God.”


Yes. Something did happen in Lewiston, in Maine, in America. We had been safe. Nothing this bad had made it to Maine. Now it had.

Monday, Oct. 30: 18 dead, 13 wounded.

And the prayers go on and on and on.

In Israel and along the Gaza Strip, thousands die each day. In our larger cities, San Francisco, Los Angeles, people are being murdered in the streets.

Tonight, I try to fall asleep under a full Halloween moon to a soft wind and rustling leaves.

We’re safe. For now.

But safe — what does it mean? Hate and anger never sleep. It can happen again.

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer. 

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