Updated 12/31/2012 05:05 PM
People Come From Near and Far to Pay Respects to Kaczowka
The murders of two West Webster firefighters touched people who never knew the men. A mark evident outside the church, and all along the funeral procession.
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Outside St. Stanisaus Church, many didn't have to know Tomasz Kaczowka to feel a connection.
"Even for those who didn't personally know him, it's a lifestyle. It's your brotherhood,” said Iggy Suarez.
Iggy Suarez made the trip from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where he, too, is a firefighter.
"Well, it hits close to home, because we all do the job and we respond to the call not knowing what's going to happen. It hits hard, but we all have to go back home, get on the trucks, and run the calls."
"It was absolutely beautiful, I've never seen anything like it,” said April Thiel, Rochester.
Thiel's daughter attended school with Kaczowka. She lives not far from the church where he was eulogized.
"They went out there to serve and protect. That was their job. So it is our job to honor them as our brothers, fallen heroes. Angels now."
From the church, a procession of fire vehicles accompanied Kaczowka's coffin to his final resting place. Along the route, firefighters and civilians stopped to honor his passing.
"I'm here to support any one of my brothers. We all stick together,” said James Parks.
Parks is a longtime firefighter and former chief in the Ontario Fire Department; the next town over from Webster.
"It's all a big family. Everybody's here for each other and when something like this occurs, you see the turnout is thousands."
Many along the procession route did not know Kaczowka. Still, they felt it their duty to honor the life of the firefighter who gave his, in the line of duty.
"I don't know either one of the fallen firemen, but it hit home to me and it's been on my mind a lot,” said Mary Lynn Burchill, Rochester.
Feelings shared by many outside the front gate to Holy Sepulche Cemetery, where the firefighter was laid to rest.
"I think it's so important that in whatever way we can, we honor what they have given. Their life, their time, their energy. I think it's so important to respect that,” said Ann Savastano, Rochester.
“They served our community in such a great way, and we don't always think to thank them until something like this happens," Burchill said.
Just as with fellow firefighter Mike Chiapperini's funeral the day before, many still can't make sense of the ambush that killed he and Kaczowka and wounded two others. The need to honor them, as heroes, is unquestioned.
"It's the least we can do,” James said.