TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The mass shooter in Maine killed four members of Lewiston’s deaf and hard of hearing community during his rampage, and the sister of one of the victims lives in the Tampa Bay area.
Bryan MacFarlane was one of the people killed. His sister, Keri Brooks, spoke with News Channel 8 on Friday night through an American Sign Language interpreter.
Brooks said never before have so many deaf people been killed in a mass shooting, and she never imagined a tragedy like this could occur in her home state of Maine.
“Their slogan is ‘The way of life how it should be,’ which is not true anymore,” she said.
Brooks and her younger brother grew up together in Maine.
“I’m just really proud to have the brother who is deaf like me,” Brooks said. “Born to two hearing parents and we had each other to rely on. So that was our bond with the American Sign Language, with the deaf culture.”
Brooks and her family live in the Clearwater area, but she learned her brother is one of the 18 shooting victims while she was on vacation in Iceland.
She said her brother loved the outdoors.
“Love fishing, snowmobiling,” Brooks said. “He loved to go camping. Avid outdoorsman. Anything outdoors, that’s him.”
Her brother was also one of the first deaf people to get his commercial trucking driver’s license in the state of Vermont.
“The vocational rehabilitation made that possible for him, and I was so proud of him to achieve that because there are only a few CDL truck drivers that are deaf because of DOT restriction,” Brooks said.
MacFarlane was playing in a cornhole tournament Wednesday night with other members of Lewiston’s deaf community when the gunman carried out the massacre at Schemengees Bar and Grille.
“The deaf community is so small,” Brooks said. “We are so intertwined with each other in one way or another. Also, nationwide all over the United States knew one of these four victims or knew the siblings or the spouses or the family in one way or another.”
Brooks said the tight-knit deaf community is already coming together after this tragedy. She said about 100 people took part in a virtual candlelight vigil Thursday night.
As the deaf community in Maine and beyond mourns the lives lost, MacFarlane’s older sister is calling on lawmakers to act.
“I feel strongly this whole situation could have been avoided if lawmakers would just go ahead and ban assault rifles,” Brooks said.
Brooks said she plans to visit Maine in the coming weeks — she just doesn’t know when yet. Her mother still lives there.
She said the family is waiting for the state to release her brother’s body before they plan a memorial service.