Remembering West Webster heroes

One year ago, I covered an unimaginable tragedy.

A 62-year-old Webster, NY man fatally shot his sister, set fire to her car – which then spread to their shared home. When firefighters responded to battle the blaze early on Christmas Eve morning, the same man opened fire. He shot four responding firefighters, killing two of them and seriously wounding the other pair before he shot himself.

One year ago today, Rochester-area residents woke to find the lakeside neighborhood ablaze. The fire, left to burn unchecked for more than four hours, ultimately consumed seven homes on Lake Road and damaged two more. Fire engines were left in place on the road, where they stopped moments before the shots rang out.

The lakeside community was never going to be the same.

I was among the first reporters on the scene, covering the tragedy for my paper the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle and USA Today. In today’s paper, I recounted what it was like to cover the ambush on Christmas Eve and it’s fallout over the next few days.

Click here to read the column:

I’ll be honest, I cried as I wrote this column. I cried as I proofed it. I cried as I re-read it this morning. I cried as I thought about what the events meant to the community.

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West Webster Fire Department last Christmas Day

Last week, I watched as a backhoe leveled the remaining debris of the gunman’s home. Tears I had not realized I was holding back welled in my eyes. I stood with a colleague and friend across the road, perhaps not far from where the gunman stood one year ago today.

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The memorial on Lake Road earlier this month.

Today and every day, we think of you Mike and Tomasz. You are true heroes.

Please say a prayer below to the families of Mike Chiapperini and Tomasz Kaczowka. Where were you last Christmas Eve? Do you remember what you were doing when you heard of the ambush?

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