NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – The second firefighter shot dead in the Christmas Eve ambush in Webster, N.Y. has been laid to rest.
Hundreds of mourners, many of them firefighters in uniform, filed into St. Stanislaus Church in Rochester to remember 19-year-old Tomasz Kaczowka.
Kaczowka’s father used to time how long it would take his volunteer firefighter son to get from his room to his car after hearing the sound of his pager, Kaczowka’s brother recalled Monday.
“He would cover the distance in a time Usain Bolt would be proud of,” Darek Kaczowka said during the funeral for his 19-year-old brother, one of two West Webster firefighters slain during a Christmas Eve ambush in upstate New York. “There were times when I had to get out of the way or risk being run over.”
With hundreds of mourners filling St. Stanislaus Church, Tomasz Kaczowka was described by his brother and others as a selfless volunteer who was determined to help people and whom everyone liked.
“He had a personality which drew people to him like a magnet,” Deacon Ray Mielcarek said. “We all know that sorrow and pain are so much a part of our earthly lives and nowhere is that more evident than here today at this moment,” Mielcarek said at Monday’s service.
Parts of Kaczowka’s funeral were said in Polish, including a message of condolence read by Mateusz Stasiek on behalf of the ambassador to Poland and consul general of the Republic of Poland in New York.
“You will stay forever young, forever a hero,” Stasiek added, “and you will never be forgotten.”
Kaczowka’s flag-draped casket arrived atop a fire truck and was carried in to the church shortly before 10:30 a.m. Monday, proceeded by a procession of bagpipers and drummers.
Thousands of mourners gathered Sunday for the funeral of his fellow firefighter Michael Chiapperini.
An estimated 5,000 first responders from across the state were in town for the weekend to attend calling hours for both men. At Chiapperini’s funeral Sunday, Webster Fire District Chief James Deisenroth called him a “true hero” and mentor who “gave me the courage and confidence to handle anything.”
Ex-convict William Spengler set his own house on fire to lure the firefighters there.
When they arrived, he opened fire, shooting four in all.
Chiapperini’s widow spoke through her tears at Sunday’s service.
“Even though I’m surrounded by wonderful people, it’s an incredibly lonely feeling,” Kimberly Chiapperini said. “My heart is broken, but I am so thankful for the years that we did share.”
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