Town Remembers Slain Friends Close-Knit Community Pays Tribute To Victims Of Gunman’s Rampage
The polished black granite monument was blank as it was placed Friday at the scene of two slayings, letting mourners reflect on their own memories of the people who died there.
Soon, it will shine with facial engravings of four distinguished citizens in this northern New Hampshire town of 2,600 people: a newspaper editor who chronicled their daily lives, a part-time judge and lawyer who helped settle their disputes and two state troopers who helped protect them.
As workers at the local weekly newspaper watched from inside their offices, the headstone was lowered to the ground in Memorial Park, 3 feet from where editor Dennis Joos was killed Tuesday next to the News and Sentinel building.
A few feet farther, part-time Judge Vickie Bunnell was shot in the back as she ran for her life. Several newspaper workers witnessed the shootings as they fled gunman Carl Drega minutes after he killed two troopers in a grocery store parking lot.
Drega, 62, died Tuesday in a gun battle with officers shortly after he torched his own home following the four fatal shootings. He had lined his property with explosives, armor-piercing ammunition, pipe bomb casings and motion sensors along his driveway.
On Friday a bullet hole remained gouged in the cinder block wall of the newspaper building near the park.
“We don’t mind having to look at this all the time,” said John Harrigan, the newspaper publisher. “We are never going to forget, anyway.”
The marker the town put in place Friday is a temporary one. Its polished face reflected flowers left at the site.
Next, photos of the victims will be attached. For permanent display, there will be a monument with engravings of the victims’ faces.
“We have been saying all through this that these people weren’t just numbers, they were faces, they had smiles,” said Harrigan, who was friends with all of those who died.
A couple of blocks away under cloudy skies, hundreds of police and firefighters from around the United States and Canada lined up, their badges covered with black bands, to file by the caskets of New Hampshire state Troopers Leslie Lord and Scott Phillips. More were expected for the troopers’ funerals today.
“They are police officers and they are troopers, and it’s a very special bond,” said Illinois State Police Sgt. Victor Morris. “To me, it’s an honor to be here.”