Burlington residents gathered Saturday to mourn the victims of Friday's shooting at the Cascade Mall. “The city of Burlington is changed forever," said Mayor Steve Sexton.

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BURLINGTON, Skagit County — As investigators piece together what led to the shooting that killed five people inside a Burlington mall, the Skagit Valley area has come together in mourning.

A few dozen people gathered at a Burlington park early Saturday to grieve and share condolences. Some gave first-hand accounts of the chaotic scene Friday night at the Cascade Mall, where investigators say a man opened fire in a Macy’s store. Details on the gunman’s motive are unknown.

One thing from the local residents rang clear: Friday’s tragedy has rocked the tight-knit, rural community about 60 miles from Seattle. Many expressed disbelief.

“Everybody knows each other here and it’s hard to think that somebody can just walk in and start shooting,” said Kelly Couture of Burlington. “It’s not supposed to be like this.”

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Joanne Burkholder and Kelly Couture describe their experience of being at Cascade Mall during the fatal shooting. (Jessica Lee / The Seattle Times)

Couture was walking out of the Target store across the street from the mall Friday night when she heard “mass sirens” and saw people running out of the mall screaming. “It was kind of, like, chaotic. The amount of sirens and the amount of police cars was insane.”

The gathering at Maiben Park  also carried a tone of fear and subsequent anxiety since the gunman is still on the loose. Strangers and friends exchanged hugs and prayers, and said that the safe space to grieve was much needed during the tragic time.

A second vigil is planned for 5 p.m. Saturday at Central United Methodist Church, 1013 Polte Road in Sedro-Woolley.

The impact of the shooting spread far beyond the mall. A football game between Lakewood High School at nearby Burlington-Edison High School was suspended in the second quarter when Burlington athletic director Don Beazizo walked onto the field and alerted the crowd to the shooting.

The Burlington Harvest Festival and Pumpkin Pitch that was scheduled for Saturday at Skagit River Park in Burlington was also cancelled.

During a news conference Saturday morning, Burlington Mayor Steve Sexton said, “There are people waking up this morning and their lives are changed forever. The city of Burlington is changed forever.”