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Even as the lockdowns lift, Lewiston area residents say normalcy still feels far away

Governor's Restaurant on Lisbon Street, one of Lewiston's busiest thoroughfares.
Susan Sharon
Maine Public
Governor's Restaurant on Lisbon Street, one of Lewiston's busiest thoroughfares.

A shelter in place order was lifted Friday evening for Lewiston, Lisbon and Bowdoin.

Grocery stores, banks and other stores now have the option to open.

Hannaford announced Friday evening that previously closed stores in Auburn, Brunswick, Lewiston, Mechanic Falls, Topsham and Turner will all reopen at 8 a.m. Saturday.

Noella Labbe heard the news about the shootings while on vacation in North Carolina and drove back to her home in Lisbon Thursday night.

She came home to an empty fridge and drove to a gas station in Lewiston to pick up some essentials.

"They didn't have a loaf of bread, but they have hot dog rolls," Labbe said early Friday afternoon outside the Irving gas station on Lisbon Street in Lewiston. "That'll work, you know?"

The two straight days of lockdown has been an inconvenience for some, but many residents said that even as they ventured out to find what few stores were open, there was a sense that something was different.

Neighboring Auburn offered hints of what's to come as other nearby communities begin to reopen.

Roy's All-Steak Hamburgers was closed Thursday but opened up Friday for breakfast. Lauren Roy, who helps manage the hamburger business that her father owns, said she decided to reopen after speaking with her employees. Not everyone felt comfortable coming into work, but she said she had enough staff to operate.

"We said you know what, people need somewhere to eat," Roy said.

Coffee seemed to be in high demand Friday morning, Roy said. And she noticed that in the early stages of the would-be lunch rush, takeout seemed more popular than usual.

"There's actually a few people dining in," Roy said. "Obviously it's not a normal Friday here. Usually we [have] a line out the door, dining room full. I'd say we have about a quarter of the business that we usually would."

Yvon Gallant was on his way into Roy's late Friday morning and said he was happy to see his regular lunch spot reopen. Things still don't seem normal, and Gallant acknowledged that they may not again until the suspect is found.

"I'm not sure, I don't know why they can't find him," he said. "But they're trying I guess, they're doing their best."

Noella Labbe agreed. She said it's too difficult to relax, at least until the suspect remains at large.

"I know I just took a shower and I made my husband stay outside the door, because I was afraid," she said. "That's the God's honest truth."

For Bates College professor Stephanie Kelley-Romano, it's hard to think too far ahead, or even to next week.

"My birthday is next Tuesday, Halloween. Am I going to go to a restaurant? I don't know," she said. "I mean that's all stuff that I can't even imagine right now."

Kelley-Romano had spent Friday volunteering at the college's dining hall to serve meals to the students, who had been accompanied to their timed shifts for meals. Some of the leftover food, she said, was delivered to unhoused people and to the fire station in Lewiston.

With the lifting of the shelter in place, Bates College announced late Friday that many facilities would reopen, the dining hall would operate under a new schedule and that classes would resume Monday.

College officials urged students against congregating in large groups and to be careful in public.

"I haven't even thought about what the classroom is going to be like, other than to know it's not going to be anything like what we think it's going to be," Kelley-Romano said.

And even as cars return to the road, Emily Ellis of Lewiston said the feelings of sadness, dread and disappointment will not go away.

"I've been living in this town for almost 40 years, and I feel very safe," she said. I've always felt very, very safe, never even felt the need to lock my door. I do now. That might seem very insignificant, but it's a huge change."