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.


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.


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?

“Chick on Chick” – Episode V – All Eyes on Vic!

Are you ready for the scoop? I’ve got the goods on our Chick Vic!  This is the fifth installment of our “Chick on Chick” series aka the one in which Cam asks Vic a bunch of random yet very important questions.  In case you missed all the action, click here to learn more about Jess, Brooke, Bec, and Meri.



I first met Vic during the Merrell Down and Dirty Mud Run in Philly.  We were both there to roll in the mud with chick Meri and I’ve been trying to get her in a Ragnar van ever since. Between chasing down homicides and running marathons, this chick knows how to have an adventure!  We all know Vic’s an inspirational runner, but I wanted to get down and dirty with Vic.  Really ask the hard-hitting questions, about important stuff like toenails and reality shows.  So here’s the 411 on this top-notch reporter and superior pig roaster (which may or may not occur simultaneously).

Cam: First things first, how many toenails do you have?

Vic: “You know you’re a runner when….”
All of my toenails are on my feet. (There’s a sentence I never expected to write!) But only 6 of my 10 toenails can be described as normal. I’ve pretty much lost one toenail per marathon. My left foot looks great and the nails on my right foot, well, look stressed. I often paint them in the summer to hide how horrible they really are. I pretend it works, but I know it doesn’t. And I cringe when I get a pedicure. It’s rather embarrassing so I rarely go.

Cam: Gimme your Top 5 Bands of all time.

Vic: I love music, but am the girl who never knows names of bands, songs or albums. Don’t get me wrong, I can belt out a 20-year-old song with the best of them but if you ask me what it’s called and who sings it, I will come up blank pretty much every time.

So instead, I’ll tout my favorite all-time band, The Beatles. John, Paul, George and Ringo – I feel like they’ve been with me through many stages of my life. I have many albums, including the coveted Sgt. Peppers’ on LP, though don’t ask me where the coveted paper dolls went. The Beatles are tried and true and have stood the test of time. I can pop on an album and sing along… And I’ve been to Penny Lane, Abbey Road, Strawberry Fields and the famous Cavern Club. Too bad I never met Jude.

*Please Note*

Vic receives 1up for this response.  I, too, claim the fab four as my most favorite band of all time!

Cam: What is your most cherished item in your closet? Besides your running shoes, of course…

Vic: I don’t really have one cherished item as I destroy clothes. I have skirts I wear often and one super flattering dress that makes weekly appearances in the summer months. One special item that’s been in my closet for 28 years, is hooded sweatshirt from my childhood. It’s an old swimming zip-up hoody from 1985. Yes, I still have it. Yes, I still wear it. Yes, I’ve tried to part with it more than once. No, I’m not giving it up.

Cam:  If you could live in any era, which decade would you choose?

Vic: My husband and I chat about this often. I’d love to have seen what life was like in the 30s. I know it was amidst the Great Depression and World War II, but it’s also when the city I live in hit its stride. I’d love to know what Rochester NY was like in its heyday. It was a simpler time, and the downtown where I work was BOOMING. Plus, my father was a child in the 30s and I would have loved to have known what he was like as a kid. Would we have been friends?

Cam: Which superpower would you want?

Vic: I’d love the ability to transport myself in an instant. I want to travel across the country, or world, in a flash. I don’t get to see my loved ones as often as I like – my sister lives in Australia, my cousins are in Ecuador and my best friend and parents are a six-hour drive away. I’d pop in for dinner, family gatherings or emergencies and to surprise my loved ones.

Cam:  Who are your heroes?

Vic: There are so many I could say, but I will go with a homegrown hero, Susan B. Anthony. An independent woman at a time in history when women toed the line, Anthony fought for equality. She was a key advocate for the 19th century women’s suffrage movement — and didn’t back down from a challenge. She voted in 1872, full well knowing she would be arrested for her action. She wanted to make a difference for others, to be heard. “Failure is impossible,” she said. I try to remember that motto any time I face a challenge.

Cam: Cast your perfect reality show.

Vic: Do I get to pick the people in it? I’m not a huge fan of reality TV, but if I could pick anyone from recent history to put into a room and interview, I’d round up Walt Disney,  Eleanor Roosevelt, Margaret Thatcher, Steve Jobs and Bob Woodward. All incredible trailblazers in my eyes.

Trailblaze on, my friend!  Do you have any questions for Vic?  Do you also love the Beatles? Chat with us in the comments!