Editor's Note: This article is a collaboration between Oxford Patch and the Valley Independent Sentinel.
The mother of an Oxford teen killed in a car crash Friday night asked for her family's privacy to be respected Monday as she tried - unsuccessfully - to find words to describe her grief.
"There's really, truly no words to explain what we're going through," Angela Borrelli, the mother of 15-year-old Brandon Giordano, said. She has posted on social media and local news sites about how much she appreciates the community's support.
"Obviously, this is one of the most difficult times our our lives," she said. "People who knew Brandon know his story and it will be shared when the time is right."
At on Monday, many students wore black throughout the day in honor of Giordano, a sophomore and member of the school’s football team. The loss of a classmate was was something the 585 students in this small-town school had never experienced - this is the first student death in the school’s five-year history - and it’s one they hope to never have to deal with again. Despite this being a new and traumatic experience, the school community handled the situation with aplomb, school administrators said.
As they walked into school, students passed by a flagpole with Giordano’s No. 69 OHS football jersey hanging on it – flowers and candles made a perimeter around the base. They walked into the school building just before 7:30 a.m., and Principal Frank Savo addressed them over the loudspeaker. He explained what had happened for anyone who may have missed the news, talked a little about Giordano and told students that school administrators and teachers would be available to talk if students needed the support.
“Mr. Savo did a great job giving some words of encouragement for the kids and kind of validating how each kid felt,” said Vice Principal Glenn Lungarini, the school’s athletic director.
Administrators postponed the Connecticut Academic Performance Test, or CAPT - the standardized test taken by all 10th graders in the state - for one week as an opportunity to let students mourn and begin to heal, Savo said.
In the classroom, students felt comfortable enough talking to teachers and sharing their feelings, Lungarini said. When teachers had breaks from classes, they went into the hallways to console students and headed to the flagpole to sit with them and grieve.
“Frank (Savo) and I are very proud of the faculty we have, and of the way the students respected each other and supported each other today,” Lungarini said.
Savo said the school has an emergency operations plan for this kind of situation, but that everyone hopes it never has to be implemented. When he got a phone call at 2 a.m. on Saturday, he knew that plan would be enacted right away. That plan was implemented by dawn.
The school opened for the entire day on Saturday and hundreds of teachers, administrators, staff and students were there until past 9 p.m consoling each other. The school held a touching candlelight vigil, organized by students, in which more than 300 people from all over Oxford and beyond paid their respects.
Savo said he let students know on Monday that it’s OK to have mixed emotions and that everyone is going to deal with this loss in a unique way.
“Not only has the school community been great in pulling together, but the community at large has done an admirable job in supporting each other during this difficult time,” Savo said, adding that grief counseling will be provided to students for as long as it is necessary.
On Monday afternoon, OHS student Kevin Loschiavo wrote a message to friends via Twitter in which he describes his thoughts. Loschiavo shared the tweet with local news sites, saying he wants people to know how he feels.
“We came together as a family,” his message read. “Before this happened, OHS was divided in groups. We were one big heart today. All I want to say is I love all of you, and we need to stay together for Brandon, his family and for your brothers and sisters at OHS.”
Sophomore Kyle Sastrum, who said he's been best friends with Giordano since middle school, described Brandon as a jokester who had a glowing personality.
“He was the type of kid who would come over and mess up my room no reason," Sastrum said. "I’d get mad at him for a second, but only for a second because he’d give a wink or make a funny face. And you just couldn’t stay mad at him."
Sophomore Dan Carbonaro, who played football with Giordano, said Giordano made practices fun because of his sense of humor.
And Fred Widmer, another sophomore who plays football and was a close friend with Giordano, said he, too, will always remember Giordano’s smile.
Widmer said, “I’m going to remember him for the six years of good times we shared together.”
In the community, people are mourning as well. Deborah Taylor Sweeney of Fritz's Snack Bar on Route 67 said people have been talking about the tragedy non-stop. She said she didn't know Giordano, but plans to post his photo in the diner to memorialize him.
And students have set up an account to raise money for Giordano's mother - it will help her pay for repairs to her home, which was damaged in a fire early Saturday morning in a separate accident. Town Hall employees are also collecting money for the same cause. Call Town Hall at 203.888.2543 and ask for Anna Silva Rycenga, the zoning enforcement officer, to help.
- “My daughter Madyson remembers Brandon from grammar school and how he always made her laugh. She came into our room early Saturday morning to tell us that he had died and she was very, very upset. We live in California but our hearts are with all of you in Oxford. 3000 miles away this tragedy has left us speechless. Please know that you are in our thoughts and prayers.” – Cheryl Daddio-Smith
- “This town knows how to embrace each other and support each other when we need to.” – Becky Gall-Piorek
- “We have great kids in Oxford and they have a wonderful support system. Thank you to the Administration, teachers, BOE members who came tonight to be with our kids. They shared the sorrow, pain and the memories with our kids and helped them make it through tonight. Angela, you are an amazing lady and your strength amazes me.” – Debbie Dolyak Sherman
- “I am so grateful for every thing that was done to honor my sons memory, and I am eternally grateful for how beautifully every thing 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 that they shared with him. Shed no more tears, but bring smiles of joy, for my son has entered into eternal life. Thank u to all who lended a helping hand in making this possible. I am HONORED to be a lifetime Oxford resident, HONORED!!” – Angela M. Borrelli, Brandon Giordano’s mother
- “Angela: Our thoughts and prayers to your entire family, and blessings to an new angel in heaven. So many kids have changed the images to reflect Brandon’s number on Facebook with love. Yes, they should retire his number and frame it with respect for Brandon. With Love and Sympathy – Peggy, Patrick and Mary Freeman
Brandon you will always be remembered. I am going to miss seeing u at your locker everyday. You are the person that made school fun. It is going to be very boring without u cracking jokes all the time in class. RIP” – Nick Gazsi
- “Brandon was one of the funniest kid I ever met and was always able to lighten the mood…he will truly be missed.” – Nick Estevs
- “On behalf of the Woodland Hawks Football Program we would like to express our deepest sympathies for the families and community of Oxford over this terrible tragedy. We will keep you all in our prayers.” – Posted by Woodland Hawks Football
- “The Borrellis are dear and loved friends of ours. I have met Brandon many times. A fun, sweet boy. His short years here were definitely filled with much love from the most wonderful, supportive circle of friends an family. He was blessed for sure.” – Jme Erhardt
- “It amazes and astonishes me that the pain of losing my son Brandon has traveled across the globe. From Italy to China, North Carolina, Kansas, California, Florida, Barcelona – his friends and family are far and wide….And thank you Valley Independent Sentinel and Oxford Patch for such tasteful coverage. The respect you have given to my son, myself and my family is so appreciated. And thank you Nicole for what you did in his memory.” – Angela Borrelli