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Bells ring in Manchester in solidarity as Vermont faces pandemic

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MANCHESTER — When the Town of Manchester took possession of the old Bennington County Courthouse on Main Street in Manchester Village, an important piece of equipment came with the real estate — the courthouse bell.

It was put to use Tuesday, as residents rang bells and honked car horns in solidarity in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of confirmed cases of the virus has grown quickly in recent days, and on Tuesday, Vermont Gov. Phil Scott issued a "stay in place" order as part of efforts to slow the growth its growth.

At the courthouse, up Seminary Avenue at Burr and Burton Academy, and at Select Board vice-chair Wayne Bell's residence on Highland Avenue, bells could be heard ringing out.

Manchester resident Victoria Silsby approached town manager John O'Keefe with the idea, O'Keefe said. The courthouse, built in 1822, was inherited by the town under the provision of an early 20th century court decision mandating that the town assume ownership once it was no longer used as a courthouse.

"I thought it was a great idea to ring bells," he said. " has been in Manchester thru the Civil War, World War I, World War II."

O'Keefe in turn reached out to Tom Deck, a former Manchester Village Board of Trustees member, to handle the mission.

Shortly before 8 p.m., Tom Deck, Deb Henley and son Hudson Deck opened the front door of the courthouse. At 8 p.m. sharp, Hudson, an eighth grader at Maple Street School, grabbed the rope and gave it a good pull.

The family took turns ringing, taking pictures and holding the leashes of their Labrador retrievers. Traffic was light, but cars passing by honked in support. Silsby stopped by and thanked the family for pitching in.

They plan to be back every night at 8 p.m. to ring the bell again.

"In this time of difficulty for many people we want to show a sign of solidarity. and we have an amazing village and town of people who love each other and want to support each other," Henley said.

In the distance, the bell atop BBA's Seminary Building could be heard ringing. Headmaster Mark Tashjian manned the rope himself.

"I rang the bell because we as a community, we as a country, and we as a world need to be united in this time of crisis," he said.


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