About 300 members of the community attended a candlelight vigil Saturday night to remember one of their own, a popular 15-year-old Wolverine football player who died in a car accident the previous night.
The mourners huddled shoulder-to-shoulder holding a friend’s hand with one of their own and a candle in the other as they hung their heads in disbelief. In front of them was a circle of candles and flower bouquets around the base of a flagpole that was draped with a dark blue Oxford football jersey with the number 69 on the front. The jersey was worn just last weekend by sophomore as he volunteered with his teammates in Seymour with a smile on his face. A week later, Giordano was gone; he died instantly following a on Old State Road just before midnight on Friday.
Those who knew Giordano well remembered him fondly at Saturday’s vigil. OHS Football Coach Joe Stochmal, a teacher at the school, said Giordano had the rare ability to make people feel good about themselves.
“He always had people around him laughing,” Stochmal said; several people wrote on a makeshift memorial that Giordano was one of the funniest people they had ever met.
Stochmal also described Giordano as a young man who had recently been making great strides as a student-athlete. Giordano, who stood 6-feet, 1-inch tall and weighed about 265 pounds, had been working hard in the weight room in hopes of getting some varsity time as a lineman in his junior year, Stochmal said.
“He was getting stronger, and, more importantly, he was becoming a good leader,” Stochmal said.
Giordano was passionate about football and was an avid Green Bay Packers fan, the OHS coach said. He said the two shared some light-hearted banter when Stochmal’s favorite team, the New York Giants, met the Packers in the playoffs this year.
"He was a very passionate fan," Stochmal said. "He loved football."
Stochmal attended the vigil with several fellow OHS admistrators, faculty and staff members to honor Giordano’s memory and to make sure his players and students were pulling through this difficult time.
“Brandon is going to be missed,” Stochmal said. “We are going to do something in the upcoming season to honor his memory.”
That memory was honored Saturday in an event organized by someone Giordano didn’t really know.
Nicole Tkacz (pronounced Koch), a senior at OHS, said she knew of Giordano but the duo never really talked. However, she said, the accident has rocked the community; it marks the first time a student has died in Oxford High School’s short history (the school opened in 2007).
“People were talking all day about how we should do something,” Tkacz said. "So I just decided to get it together."
She saw people talking constantly about the accident on Twitter and Facebook, so she thought she would use those avenues to bring them all together. She tweeted the idea of a candlelight vigil, posted it on Facebook and had friends call school OHS Vice Principal Glenn Lungarini to help set it up. With the school administration on-board, it came together within a few hours.
“Nothing like this has happened in Oxford before, so I thought we all needed to be together for it,” Tkacz said. “We needed to wrap our heads around this as a community.”
Several people donated candles and balloons – blue and white – that were released into the sky after a moment of silence on Saturday.
Tkacz said people also donated money to Giordano’s mother, Angela Borrelli, whose terrible pain was made worse when her bedroom caught on fire on Saturday night. When she received a call about her son, she left a candle in the room and rushed out of the house. She came home to firefighters putting out the flames. The fire was contained to her room and the home was inhabitable.
“A lot of people donated to the fund," Tkacz said. "I just want to thank everyone for doing what they did."
OHS sophomore Andrew Temple, whose father, George, is the first selectman of Oxford, said Giordano was a good and very funny guy.
“It’s a shocking and strange feeling,” Andrew Temple said. “You see his Facebook and Twitter accounts and it’s a grim reminder that nobody is behind them anymore.”
Lungarini, the school’s vice principal and athletic director, said Giordano’s memory lives on thanks to the thoughtfulness of the students, whom he was proud of on Saturday.
“One of the tough things for students this age is that, for many of them, it’s the first time they are experiencing this kind of tragedy,” he said. “And yet, regardless of how they are handling it on the inside, on the exterior they are extremely supportive of each other. It’s impressive the way this community has come together.”
One person who certainly appreciates the gesture is Giordano’s mother, who attended the vigil. Angela Borelli wrote the following about Saturday night’s event on the Oxford Patch Facebook page:
“I’m so grateful for everything that was done to honor my son’s memory. And I am extremely grateful for how beautifully everything was put together in such a short time. The kids needed this, and I hope they will smile from now on when thinking of a memory, of a moment in time they shared with him. Shed no more tears, but bring smiles of joy, for my son has entered into eternal life. Thank you to all who lent a helping hand in making this possible. I am HONORED to be a lifelong Oxford resident. HONORED!”
Editor’s Note: The driver of the vehicle Giordano was in, 19-year-old Eric Ramirez of Oxford, was listed in serious condition on Saturday night at Yale-New Haven Hospital, local officials said. They said Ramirez, a former Oxford High School student, was able to move his hands and feet and had spoken. The other teen in the car, Dion Major, another current OHS student, escaped with bumps and bruises and attended the vigil on Saturday.