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Maine mass shooting may be nation's worst-ever affecting deaf community, with 4 dead - USA TODAY

Author: ever affecting deaf community, with 4 dead

Source: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2023/10/29/maine-mass-shooting-may-be-worst-ever-affecting-us-deaf-community/71372264007/

Image of Maine mass shooting may be nation's worst-ever affecting deaf community, with 4 dead - USA TODAY

The shooting deaths of four deaf people in Maine during the Lewiston rifle rampage last week that killed 18 people appears to be the worst-ever mass shooting affecting the deaf community, according to advocates.Among the dead are Steve Vozzella, Brian MacFarlane, Billy Brackett, and Joshua Seal, who were playing in a weekly cornhole tournament for deaf and hard-of-hearing people at Schemengees Bar & Grille.Maine has about 1.3 million residents, and deaf advocacy groups say the loss of the four men hits especially hard in such a small state.Experts say the shooting was likely particularly traumatic for deaf and hard-of-hearing survivors because they might have been not known to take cover when the gunshots first sounded, and would have struggled to know when the shooting ended or even whether nearby friends were alive.Officials say the shooter, Robert Card, deliberately targeted the Just-In-Time Recreation bowling alley, where seven people died, before driving four miles across Lewiston to Schemengees, where he killed eight.Another three people died after being taken to hospitals."This sends chills through our community," Angela Maria Nardolillo, executive director of deaf-focused international disaster nonprofit Off-The-Grid Missions, said via text message."There is a stark overcast when violence hits your community, a community so tight-knit and yet so vulnerable."ASL interpreter a 'consummate professional'Seal was the director of interpreting services at the Pine Tree Society, a Bath, Maine, disabilities-services nonprofit.He gained recognition during the pandemic as an interpreter for Dr. Nirav D.Shah, then a top Maine state health official who is now a top official with the U.S.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.Pine Tree last year provided more than 20,000 hours of ASL interpretive services.Shah in a statement said Seal helped connect the deaf community with key information: "He was ...the literal voice (and face) of the COVID response for the Deaf community in #Maine and beyond.He was a consummate professional who helped all of us navigate through a tough period. I marveled at his ability to interpret what we were saying at light speed—even my (awful) attempts at humor during dark days.He never missed a beat.He will be forever missed and always remembered as part of Maine’s history."Nardolillo's nonprofit assists deaf and hard-of-hearing people during worldwide disasters, and she said she couldn't think of a worse shooting in the United States directly affecting the deaf community.One of her group's goals is to help first responders better assist deaf and hard-of-hearing people during crises.She said that during a shooting, deaf and hard-of-hearing people would likely miss cues like the direction of gunshots, people calling for help or to take cover, police responding or paramedics' efforts to help the wounded."Deaf people are the first ones cut off even before a crisis happens," Nardolillo said."The first ones cut off and the last ones to get the help. Imagine a deaf person just got shot, they would likely not hear their friends next to them, not even the breathing to know who is alive or not, or if the gunman has left or not."Loss of interpreter may cause struggles for deaf MainersIn a statement, Pine Tree officials mourned the deaths and the impact Seal's loss would have on others.Seal was a married father of four."The ripple effects of his loss will be felt by countless Maine people," said Pine Tree officials.Nardolillo pointed out that Maine is a small state with relatively few resources for deaf and hard-of-hearing people, and that Seal's loss will be keenly felt."It is incredibly difficult to book a qualified interpreter for basic things like doctor appointments and so forth so you can imagine amidst a crisis, well, when we lose an interpreter, the impact is deeply felt on another level in regards to an already incredible lack of access," Nardolillo said."In Maine, where the community is even smaller, this shortage of interpreters could exacerbate the challenges faced by deaf individuals on a number of levels."The Daily Beast reported that the shooter's sister-in-law said he'd recently gotten hearing aids and had started claiming he could hear people insulting him at the bar.FacebookTwitterEmail

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