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Maine’s Deaf Community Mourns Tragic Loss of Beloved Members in Lewiston Shootings

Maine’s tight-knit community of deaf and hard of hearing individuals is in mourning following the devastating shootings in Lewiston that claimed the lives of cherished community members, many of whom were passionate advocates.

The shootings, which occurred at a bowling alley and a bar in Lewiston, tragically took the lives of at least four members of the deaf community, as reported by the Maine Educational Center for the Deaf on Friday. The shootings resulted in the deaths of 18 people in total and left 13 others injured.

Among the victims was 36-year-old Joshua Seal, a sign language interpreter, who lost his life while participating in a cornhole tournament at Schemengees Bar with friends. In recent years, he gained recognition as an interpreter during the pandemic briefings of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

In a heartfelt Facebook post, Joshua Seal’s wife, Elizabeth Seal, expressed her profound grief: “It is with a heavy heart that I share with you all that Joshua Seal has passed away … no, he was murdered, in the 10/25 shooting in Lewiston. It still feels surreal.”

The tragic loss also included Billy Brackett, aged 48; Steve Vozzella, aged 45; and Bryan MacFarlane, aged 41—dedicated members of Maine’s deaf community, as confirmed by the educational center. The Maine Educational Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and the Governor Baxter School for the Deaf are situated on Mackworth Island in Falmouth, near Portland.

In response to the shooting, both the school and center were closed on Friday. The island served as a gathering place for individuals to come together, share stories, and collectively mourn, noted Karen Hopkins, the executive director.

“We have had some people come today to this island to be present and think about the loss in our community,” Hopkins shared. “How is this affecting our community? It’s horrific. It’s unimaginable.”

The man sought in connection with the mass shooting, Robert Card, was discovered deceased on Friday, according to authorities. Gov. Janet Mills of Maine confirmed that he was located in Lisbon Falls, Maine.

All four of the victims from the deaf community had ties to the Maine Educational Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and the Governor Baxter School for the Deaf. Joshua Seal had four deaf children who were engaged with the educational programs of these institutions, stated Hopkins. Brackett was an alumnus of the school and had a daughter enrolled in early intervention, while MacFarlane attended the school as a student, and Vozzella’s wife, Megan, was also an alumna of the school, as mentioned by Hopkins.

“Our staff is struggling because they are our friends,” Hopkins expressed.

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