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Hundreds gather to say goodbye to Tomasz Kaczowka

Posted at: 12/30/2012 1:50 PM
Updated at: 12/31/2012 5:10 PM
By: Berkeley Brean

Family, friends and fellow firefighters and others from around the country and the world said goodbye to another fallen hero.

Nineteen-year-old Tomasz Kaczowka was remembered and honored at a 10 a.m. service at Saint Stanislaus Church in Rochester. He was a 911 dispatcher who came up through the Explorer Program to become a firefighter.

Monday morning, the casket carrying Tomasz Kaczowka rode up to the church on the top of a West Webster Fire Department truck. It passed thousands of fire fighters standing at attention. West Webster firefighters carried it into the church.

In the sermon, Deacon Ray Mielcarek admitted we struggle to understand why.  “We're angry. We're outraged. We're fearful that it may happen again. Faith in Jesus, believing in Him, trusting in Him, therein lies our consolation. Therein lies our hope.”

Tomasz's brother gave one of the eulogies. Darek Kaczowka said, “This is what Tomasz loved to do and needed to do. His passion and commitment to the service is something to admire.”

When the mass was over, they rang the fireman's final call -- three rings in memory of Tomasz's service. The firefighters on the street came from as far away as California and Canada.

Mike Ogle, a  Toronto firefighter said, “When it's something like this you mention the border, the border doesn't exist.”

The casket -- now in a hearse -- drove away to Holy Sepulchre Cemetery and passed retired Rochester Firefighter Dan McBride. “It's a very different situation being on Hudson Avenue in Rochester, New York.”

He says the ceremony reaffirms the value we put on life and those who volunteer to protect ours. “There are symbols that express what words can't -- a salute by hundreds of firefighters. It makes Tomasz's life seem so important. It was important. He did a great thing. He sacrificed himself to protect other people and there is no higher calling than that.”

On Sunday, the community said goodbye to Michael Chiapperini. Both men were killed while responding to a fire in Webster on Christmas Eve.

Two other firefighters injured in the attack, Joseph Hofstetter and Ted Scardino, are recovering at Strong Memorial Hospital.