(NEW YORK) — This holiday season was tough for Liz Seal and her four children.
On Oct. 25, 2023, her husband Josh was one of 18 people killed in a mass shooting in Lewiston, Maine. More than two months since the tragedy, Seal, who is deaf, told ABC News Live that she, her family and her friends are still in pain.
“It still feels like a nightmare. It doesn’t feel real,” she said.
Still, Seal and others in the community said they have united to work on that healing process and honor those who were killed and hurt in the shooting.
Robert Card, a U.S. Army reservist from Bowdoin, opened fire at two locations in Lewiston: a bowling alley where a children’s league was taking place and Schemengees Bar & Grille Restaurant. In addition to the 18 people killed, 13 others were wounded.
The suspect was found dead two days later from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, investigators said.
Josh Seal, who was also deaf, was playing in a cornhole tournament at the bar with friends when the shooting took place.
Seal said that she did not initially know that her husband was among those killed. She said the situation was difficult as hospitals did not allow interpreters, leaving her and her family desperately searching for any word on her husband.
Officers informed the family about Josh Seal’s death a day later.
“My two older children saw me crying and they knew I didn’t have to put it into words. I just said, ‘Yes, it happened.’ And they, of course, said, ‘No, no.’ And they burst into tears,” she said.
Josh Seal was director of interpreting services for The Pine Tree Society, a Maine-based nonprofit that works with disabled children and adults. Liz Seal said that her husband cared about the Deaf community greatly.
“He was always helping to make sure that people could have access to their communication needs,” she said.
Three of the other slain victims in the shooting were also deaf, investigators said.
Since the shooting, the Deaf community has frequented Schemengees’ sister restaurant, Station Grill, in solidarity.
Kathy Lebel, the bar’s owner, told ABC News Live that their support has meant a lot as she is still reeling from the death of Joseph Walker, the manager who was inside during the incident.
“I enjoyed having them there. I couldn’t sign with them, but I could communicate with them. We had our ways,” she said.
Liz Seal, who has come to Station’s Grill with other victims’ families, said she has been appreciative of the outpouring of support for the Deaf community since the shooting. She said she felt touched during a memorial after the shooting where the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul was packed with mourners.
The pastor and the crowd made the ASL sign for “I love you.”
“That was such a touching moment to recognize how much the community recognizes that we’re in it together,” she said.
And the community has still found ways to honor the victims.
The Maine Museum of Innovation, Learning and Labor is currently working on an exhibit that collects memorial items such as “candles, Lewiston Strong signage, posters, hearts, love letters to family and friends,” to be put on display.
Rachel Ferrante, the museum’s executive director, told ABC News Live the project was the most important work she’s done in her life.
“It is a part of Lewiston’s history, not just what happened that night, but also how the community came together. And this is a showing of that,” she said.
“Lewiston is going to need to be on this road to recovery and moving forward, and these items are a part of that,” she said.
For Liz Seal, she said she and her family continue to find ways to remember and connect with their lost dad and husband.
“You know, I have a light in the basement that still flickers. And one day I went down there and it adjusted just at the right time. And so, I talked to Josh and I said, ‘You’re watching us.’ And, the light came on just as I had said that,” she said.
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