Bells ring in Manchester in solidarity as Vermont faces pandemic

Deb Henley of Manchester rings the bell at the old Bennington County Courthouse in Manchester Village last spring. The bell will ring again March 19 to commemorate the one-year anniversary of COVID-19 in the Northshire.

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MANCHESTER — At the one-year anniversary of the Manchester Village’s old courthouse bell ringing, the town will hold a commemoration and small ceremony and let the bell again sing. Town Manager John O’Keefe said the bell will ring at 7 p.m. March 19. It was on March 18 that the bell began ringing nightly a year ago as COVID-19 pandemic descended. And it was March 19 the first death in Vermont was reported.

O’Keefe said that March 20, this year, is the first day of spring. To celebrate the anniversary of the bell-ringing, commemorate the deaths from COVID-19 in the past year, and celebrate spring, a small ceremony will be held.

“Next week we remember the one-year anniversary of the first death in Vermont and the anniversary of the first ringing of this historic bell in solidarity against COVID-19,” O’Keefe said. “On Friday four people who have made a difference in the fight against COVID-19 will ring the Courthouse bell for over 200 seconds, one second for each person who has perished from COVID-19 in Vermont.”

O’Keefe said aspects of the event are being kept secret to enhance the surprise of what will take place, but he promised some nice surprises.

He also did not name the four individuals who will ring the bell. A year ago, anybody who wanted could show up and ring the bell and many town residents did just that as small groups would gather outside for the nightly event.

O’Keefe said the event will require safe practices including masks and social distancing.

“We are going to restrict access to the courthouse, but there’s plenty of room outside,” O’Keefe said.

The event will be streamed on Facebook Live just as the bell ringing was a year ago.

O’Keefe said the bell ringing will be followed the next day by the beginning of spring and new hope.

“March 19 is a sad day, but it is also the last day of a long, tough winter,” O’Keefe said. “March 20 is a whole new day, the first day of spring, a season of hope and light.

While we hope and pray for the end, Friday’s event is an opportunity to look back and remember those that perished from COVID.”

Contact Darren Marcy at dmarcy@manchesterjournal.com or by cell at 802-681-6534.


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