Lewiston, ME – In the aftermath of Wednesday night’s mass shooting in Lewiston, Maine, students at the nearby Bates College are counting their blessings and holding their friends a little bit closer, as many of them were out and about at the same time the shootings took place just one to two miles away from campus.

Roughly 1,800 students go to Bates College, and dozens of them are from Vermont. Many of those students, including Ben Huston, a third-year student who grew up in Vergennes, Vermont, are waiting for lockdown to end so they can reunite with their loved ones.

“Stepping outside of the dining hall (Wednesday) night and hearing the sirens wailing around, and just everywhere, not really knowing what was going on … it was really disconcerting,” Huston said, recalling where he was at the time of the shootings. “Then finally hearing the news about what was going on, it was sort of … I was in disbelief for a little bit. It was like, you see these things on the news so often and gotten sort of accustomed to it, but I’ve never been remotely close to having that be a part of my actual life.”

For the rest of the night Wednesday, Huston spent time at a friends dorm, all of them glued to the TV, watching the crime scene play out just down the street. Like everyone else on campus, Huston then spent all day Thursday in lockdown, minus the few time slots he was allocated to get food at the dining hall.

“Things are really weird on campus right now,” Huston said Thursday. “Everyone’s a little rattled. People seeing friends again in the dining halls were hugging and having reunions. I think everyone’s just glad that people on campus are safe, and (we’re) really feeling for Lewiston right now.”

As one of the captains of the Bates men’s cross country team, Huston says he would run past the places the shootings happened on a regular basis with his team. Now he says he, along with his friends, hope the town they’ve grown to love can eventually return to normal.

“The other thing that we’ve sort of been thinking about is, you know, how is this going to affect Lewiston as a whole?” Huston said. “Not just our relationship with it, but you know, is this going to be how Lewiston is thought of now? Is this going to be sort of the legacy of it a little bit? It’s got the ‘Dirty Lew’ nickname in Maine. It’s kind of known to be, or thought to be, a sort of rundown, impoverished city a little bit. I just want to reiterate though that this isn’t Lewiston, this isn’t representative of Lewiston at all. Lewiston is hardworking, it’s sincere, it’s kind, and none of those things are represented by that.”

Another student who has a unique perspective on the shootings is Julia Brophy, a third-year student from Waitsfield, Vermont. Brophy is currently studying abroad in Panama, and describes what it’s been like watching the tragedy play out thousands of miles away.

“Being concerned for those I care about from so far away is incredibly difficult,” Brophy said Thursday. “The magnitude of this incident is unlike anything I have gone through before, and the inability to look my friends face-to-face and be together is heartbreaking … When I think about the emotions I have gone through in the past 12 hours, and the way in which I feel now, it is hard to describe, as there is no correct way anyone should feel. No one plans for this to be a reality, so I feel overwhelmed with shock and worry for those in the Lewiston and Bates communities.”

“This place and these people have and will continue to be such an important part of my life, and I am sending all of my thoughts home in hopes of everyone staying safe,” Brophy concluded.

Officials at Bates College have already canceled classes for Friday, and are keeping the school on lockdown until further notice. They say they’ll continue sending updates to students and faculty every few hours, letting those on campus know when it is safe to go outside once again.