How tragedy brings a community together

31 Dec

Today, as we lay to rest young Tomasz Kaczowka, we come together as a community one last time, and hopefully begin to put this tragedy behind us.

But it’s not going to be that easy. That was obvious yesterday after Michael Chiapperini’s funeral procession passed the West Webster Fire House. Even well after the last bus had rounded the corner toward the cemetery, people still hadn’t started to disperse.  Our hearts were still bursting with love for these men that we needed to express.  There were still so many more tears to be shed.  We did not want this feeling of community — of family — to ever end.

And if any positive has come out of this awful event, it is that it has drawn the greater Webster community much closer together. My friend Kathy Saunders summed it quite well yesterday, when she said, “Even though Webster’s grown so big, it still feels like a small town.”

These last few days, as we all wrestled with the same feelings and sense of purpose, we were no longer strangers. As shoppers passed in the aisles of Wegmans, they nodded to each other. Dozens of Barry’s Old School Irish patrons stepped up to help with final preparations for the candlelight vigil. People are performing random acts of kindness for perfect strangers, first responders or not.  Everyone is being just a bit more patient and understanding in everything they do and with everyone they meet.

And because we all feel this strong bond with our community, and our fallen heroes, everyone wants to do something to help honor our two family members.  In my position as a blogger, I have been fortunate to have the important role of communicating information. Being able to write blogs and post regular updates on Facebook has given me a purpose, and has helped me work through my grief.

In many ways, the terrific Facebook page Prayers and Support for Webster Firefighters does the same for everyone else. It is a public place to express grief, post photos and videos, and give thanks, and it will make you cry. If you haven’t discovered it yet, please check it out. But in the meantime, here’s a sampling of some of the postings you’ll find there, which come from all over the country:

My daughter (Rochelle) works at Applebee’s here in Concord, NC. While working tonight she was talking with a customer who ordered a Labatt’s blue. She said “You don’t happen to be from up North are you?” The man answers “Yes, from Syracuse.” My daughter tells him we are from Rochester/Webster area. “He says, so you know all about the WWFD?” “Oh yes, ” my daughter says. The man says, Do you see the person over there?” He is pointing to another customer with our EMT uniform on. He says, “Here is $50.00. Don’t tell him where it came from.” — Melanie Secore DiBenedetto

* * *

I am a member of the Selden FD from Selden, NY on Long Island and just returned home tonight. Words cant even describe how humbled I am from the generosity and kindness from the people of Webster. Every where we went people thanked us for coming “to our town”. Hugs handshakes and even some tears were exchanged. To the two anonymous parties who paid our meals I can’t thank you enough. As I look back I still feel that wasn’t necessary. I wish I could been able to thank those people in person. Now I want to thank the Town of Webster for allowing my brothers and myself to be apart of honoring two heroes “Chip” and Tomasz. It was an experience I will never forget. The love and support shown to the West Webster FD from that town was amazing. I wish I could have visited your town on better terms. Some of us are planning to visit another time on better terms. Thank you again! And to my fallen brothers “Rest easy brothers we got it from here.” — Jonathan Barnett

* * *

I work at a Wegmans…for the past several days, I have personally witnessed several instances of kindness. When a fireman wearing a west Webster coat would be in line buying groceries, another customer would pay for them. When one of them was in line for coffee, i saw an employee jump in front of him to pay….I’ve seen random customers walk up to volunteers and give them hugs…the eyes of more than one of us welled up with tears.. — Lynn Watterson

* * *

Living in West Webster at this moment reminds me that humanity is kind and caring and our community is incredible! I am so touched by how people have paid for hotel rooms for complete strangers many out of the town first responders, and family, food and bottled water donated non stop from many businesses and individuals, people gathering for candle light and a moment of silence, standing ovation to first responders entering places, but most of all hugs and understanding by many that this has affected so many within our community and beyond! — Kim Corpus

Finally, I leave you with three videos which I made from yesterday’s funeral procession.

The first is a slide show of the photos I took at the procession. The second is a video of the procession itself.  The third is a short video of comments from some of the people at the procession about why they decided to attend.

If you’d just like to see a Facebook gallery of photos, click here.


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