In the wake of a horrifying incident where a gunman claimed the lives of 18 people in coastal Maine, the region has been enveloped in an unsettling silence. Grocery stores, gas stations, hardware shops, and even schools have shuttered their doors.
The once bustling streets have now become void of traffic, except for the occasional patrol car. Few individuals dare to venture outside during these tense times.
However, in the midst of this eerie silence, there is one place where life continues, albeit with a touch of normalcy – Best Thai II.
This restaurant has remained one of the few establishments open in the area, and its owner, Pongsakorn Hanjitsuwan, has seen a steady stream of customers since he decided to open his doors just hours after the tragic events unfolded.
Hanjitsuwan openly admits to feeling scared, acknowledging that he, like everyone else, is a human being with fears and concerns. But he is also acutely aware that people need to eat, and his business must continue to operate.
He made the calculated decision to open, considering the safety of his staff and customers, especially given the proximity of his restaurant to the local police station.
Bath, where Best Thai II is located, is a 30-minute drive away from the epicenter of the manhunt for the suspect, Robert Card.
For regular patrons, the restaurant serves as more than just a place to find a meal; it has become a haven where they can share their shock and grief with others who understand the pain that has gripped the region.
Maria, a 78-year-old Bath resident and former restaurant industry worker, expressed her gratitude that Best Thai II remained open. She, along with a friend, visited for a pad Thai lunch on a recent Friday.
Since Thursday, the restaurant has experienced a surge in business, serving a mix of regulars and newcomers, including travelers and news crews from across the country who arrived to cover the tragic incident.
Maine authorities began lifting stay-at-home orders, signaling a cautious return to normalcy. However, local residents received a cellphone alert urging them to “remain vigilant,” with businesses having the option to open or remain closed.
Some individuals began venturing out, like Toni Martin, who endured a 45-minute wait at a McDonald’s in Auburn, Maine, on Friday. She was eager to purchase a coffee and a meal, having resorted to consuming whatever was available at home the day before.
The situation at McDonald’s reminded her of the urgency witnessed during the early days of the pandemic when people hurried to stock up on provisions as numerous stores closed. In Auburn, located adjacent to Lewiston, Roy’s Foodland experienced a surge of customers.
This family-owned store, in operation for 48 years, remained open while larger chain stores remained closed. By Friday, their shelves were nearly empty, yet people continued to arrive in search of essential supplies.
Owner Michael Roy, who was personally greeting customers, admitted that the mass shooting had left him in shock. However, his decision to open Roy’s Foodland on Thursday was a practical one aimed at providing assistance to people in need.
Despite the limited supplies, he promised to restock when his bakery supplier reopened, indicating that he felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude from those who frequented his store. In these trying times, people were seeking solace in the simplest acts of normalcy and kindness.