For hours and hours on Wednesday night, Jessica Karcher waited at the Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston for news of her son Justin.
All she knew was that he had been at Schemengees Bar & Grille, where at least seven people were killed by a gunman on Wednesday, the authorities said. And that he was somewhere in the hospital, maybe just feet away from her.
“It’s hours, days, minutes,” she said. “Everything just slows right down.”
Ms. Karcher, 40, finally got news from doctors at about 2 a.m. on Thursday. Her son had been shot four times. He was in critical condition, and he was on a ventilator, sedated.
“First, it was: Is he alive, or dead?” Ms. Karcher said, standing in the hospital parking lot as she kept up her vigil. “Now, that’s the only thing I want to know is: Is he going to make it?”
For Mr. Karcher, Wednesday should have been a day to celebrate. That morning, he signed a contract to buy a house. (At just 23 years old, his mother noted, proudly.) Then, she said, he headed to Schemengees for a weekly pool tournament, just one of his many hobbies.
“He’s a very outgoing person,” she said. “Everybody loves him. He’s just a people person.”
On Thursday morning, about 12 hours after the shooting, she finally saw him, and it gutted her. Her tall, young, healthy son lay under a blue hospital gown, awaiting surgery.
“It doesn’t feel true, even though I’ve seen him,” she said. “It’s scary not knowing. He just doesn’t even look like himself.”
Mr. Karcher was running a fever on Thursday morning, she said, and doctors were working to bring it down. Until the doctor calls, she’s just going to wait in the parking lot with her family: Her sister, her daughter, her 5-month-old grandson and her friends are there with her.
It could be a long time. “With so many patients,” she said, “it’s taking forever.”