Jason Platz, 43, lives with his wife and 5-year-old daughter near Lewiston, Maine.
A pair of mass shootings Wednesday night at a bar and bowling alley killed at least 18 people.
Police are still searching for the suspect, who they said is "armed and dangerous."
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Jason Platz, a 43-year-old father who lives in Auburn, Maine — a small town just across the river from Lewiston, Maine, where authorities say a shooter killed at least 18 people at two locations, a bar and a bowling alley, on Wednesday night. As of Thursday afternoon, the shooting suspect is still on the loose and local residents have been ordered to shelter in place. This essay has been edited for length and clarity.
We're all safe, thankfully.
It was a little scary because I actually went out last night.
I went to the Dollar Tree in Lewiston, where we often go for things, which is actually a half mile down the road from the bar of the second incident.
As I crossed the bridge into Lewiston and I'm on Main Street, I see about three cop cars and a sheriff go blowing by, and it's like, "Huh, that's really weird. There's not usually as much police activity. Something big must be going on."
And then I saw an ambulance behind that. I turned and as I kept going, I kept hearing all these sirens and seeing more cars.
So I get to the store and I go inside, and it's three employees there; one of them is on the phone. And just the whole atmosphere seemed a little tense. And so I asked the guy, "Is something going on?"
And he said, "Oh, we've been hearing gunshots, and we didn't know if it was the shooting range." There's a shooting range right down the street, but he's like, "I feel like something's going on."
Then I started to really start to feel like, "Okay, I need to get home and just be there."
It wasn't until I got home that I realized what was happening, and I got the alert on my phone, and as more information came in, it started to really sink in how close I was to it.
A few months ago, my wife and I were at the movie theater and the fire alarm went off. And she got very scared, and she said that the only thing that she could think about was, "What if it was a shooter? What if this happened?"
She was visibly shaken about the whole experience. And I kind of brushed it off, like "No, that wouldn't happen, this and that."
But now I'm starting to realize that it's very warranted how she was feeling.
When we moved to Maine, we felt super safe. It's unlike a lot of places in the country — you really feel like you're safe here. I can leave my doors unlocked and it's not usually a problem.
This is the first time I've actually been scared.
I've never been this close to a mass shooting, and still even today it really hasn't sunk in how crazy it is. I'm still kind of in shock that all of it happened.
So it's kind of hit me all at once. It's like, "Wow, okay. Maybe there's something to worry about."
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