Norwich vigil honors victims of Maine mass shooting

From left, Sheila Loring, of Enfield, N.H., Kara Ghio, of Fairlee, Vt., and Mary Essex, of Norwich, Vt., light candles while holding a banner depicting the victims of the October shooting in Lewiston, Maine, during a vigil organized by members of Gun Sense Vermont on the green in Norwich, Vt., on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023. The three women, who are all deaf, knew four of the victims who were fellow members of the Deaf community: Bill Brackett, Bryan McFarlane, Joshua Seal and Stephen Vozzella. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

From left, Sheila Loring, of Enfield, N.H., Kara Ghio, of Fairlee, Vt., and Mary Essex, of Norwich, Vt., light candles while holding a banner depicting the victims of the October shooting in Lewiston, Maine, during a vigil organized by members of Gun Sense Vermont on the green in Norwich, Vt., on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023. The three women, who are all deaf, knew four of the victims who were fellow members of the Deaf community: Bill Brackett, Bryan McFarlane, Joshua Seal and Stephen Vozzella. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News / Report For America — Alex Driehaus

Attendees hold signs and wave to passersby during a vigil organized by members of Gun Sense Vermont honoring the victims of the shooting in Lewiston, Maine, last month on the green in Norwich, Vt., on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Attendees hold signs and wave to passersby during a vigil organized by members of Gun Sense Vermont honoring the victims of the shooting in Lewiston, Maine, last month on the green in Norwich, Vt., on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Jason Begnoche, right, of Strafford, Vt., stops to talk to Bob Scobie, left, of West Lebanon, N.H., about his sign during a vigil organized by members of Gun Sense Vermont honoring the victims of the shooting in Lewiston, Maine, last month on the green in Norwich, Vt., on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023. “I just wanted to hear other people’s thoughts,” said Begnoche, who took issue with the characterization of semiautomatic guns as “weapons of war,” but agreed that it’s important that guns are only available to responsible owners. “You could engage in a dialogue,” Scobie said of the interaction. “That’s what we need.” (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Jason Begnoche, right, of Strafford, Vt., stops to talk to Bob Scobie, left, of West Lebanon, N.H., about his sign during a vigil organized by members of Gun Sense Vermont honoring the victims of the shooting in Lewiston, Maine, last month on the green in Norwich, Vt., on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023. “I just wanted to hear other people’s thoughts,” said Begnoche, who took issue with the characterization of semiautomatic guns as “weapons of war,” but agreed that it’s important that guns are only available to responsible owners. “You could engage in a dialogue,” Scobie said of the interaction. “That’s what we need.” (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News / Report For America — Alex Driehaus

By LUKAS DUNFORD

Valley News Correspondent

Published: 11-03-2023 9:59 PM

NORWICH — The effects of the mass shooting in Lewiston, Maine late last month are being felt in the Upper Valley, as a vigil this week illustrated.

Kara Ghio, a Fairlee resident who works as a hairdresser in Norwich, was very close with four of the 18 victims of the shooting, who were fellow members of the Northern New England Deaf community, which Ghio said “is very small.”

Ghio, who wore an assistive hearing device and was interpreting for two friends at Thursday’s vigil, recalled that one of the four, “Bryan (MacFarlane), used to live here in Vermont.”

She also fondly spoke of another, saying, “Our very good friend Bill (Brackett) was a CDL truck driver, which is very rare for deaf people.”

Speaking about her friend, Mary Essex, a Norwich resident, standing just beside her, Ghio said, “Mary just saw Bill two weeks ago in Maine. Billy was playing poker with her, and now he’s gone.”

Ghio was among about two dozen people who gathered to mourn the victims of the Oct. 25 shooting at dusk on Thursday.

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They came to the intersection of Main and Elm streets in Norwich in winter coats and gloves holding candles and signs with messages of remembrance, and calls to ban assault weapons, and enact red flag and child protection laws.

Dr. Paul D. Manganiello, 75, an organizer of the event and Norwich resident, said that the annual vigil exists “to recognize all of the individuals who have been either killed or injured and their relatives to gun violence.”

This one, however, “specifically is in response to what happened in Lewiston,” he said.

The deaf protesters said they ask drivers to flash their lights because they can’t hear car horns. In the same way, their friends in Lewiston couldn’t hear the bullets.

“They couldn’t hear anything,” Ghio said.

They stressed the support of their community for strict gun regulations. They came to “show (the Deaf community) joining in support for assault weapon control,” Essex said.

Further, they expressed concern over the media accessibility for the Deaf community, “We don’t get the message, and politicians don’t get our message,” Essex said.

Manganiello, a member of the educational board of Gun Sense Vermont, said, “This gun violence affects not only those who die but the entire community. This is really traumatic to all the survivors.” He said that the seemingly “random” threat of a mass shooting is “real societal terror.”

Gun Sense Vermont plans to work in the upcoming Legislative session to try to ban assault-style weapons, Manganiello said.

“But,” he added, “there’s not one law that will address this kind of violence.”

Kathleen Shepherd, an 84-year-old Norwich resident, is another one of the founding members of Gun Sense Vermont, “a 10-year-old organization founded after the Sandy Hook massacre,” Shepherd said.

“We’re aiming to notify the general population on their way home from a busy day at work, they have many things on their minds, and this is an action to ask people to remember and to be aware of the work that’s going on to improve gun laws,” Shepherd said.

“We have made real progress in Vermont and this organization has been part of it,” Shepherd said, pointing to what she described as an improved red flag law.

Jason Begnoche, a 41-year-old Strafford resident, “stopped by to see what people were holding their signs up for and wanted to see their point of view on things,” he said.

He stood opposite the attendees and “had a couple of discussions with people, and I think some things do need to change, but I also believe in our rights as well.”

“It’s all about (the gun) being in the right hands or the wrong hands,” Begnoche said.

Melanie Hibbert, 41, a Norwich resident, has “an uncle whose friend was wounded in Lewiston’s shooting,” she said. “It’s scary how it seems like almost everyone has some kind of story now,” she added.

Lisa Solbert Sheldon, 71, is a Norwich resident and a member of the Hanover Friends Meeting, a Quaker faith community.

Her sign read: “It is about the Guns,” pointing to “assault weapons and weapons of war” as responsible for the recent level of violence.

“We’re standing here because the issue isn’t gone,” she said. “It isn’t a news item. It’s a real issue.”

Lukas Dunford can be reached at lukas.a.dunford.25@dartmouth.edu.