My heart is with upstate NY

Published 9:09 am Friday, December 28, 2012

“Difficulties are meant to rouse, not discourage. The human spirit is to grow strong by conflict.” – William Ellery Channing

It always starts with a madman.

Anger, rage, hate and other vile emotions—they all add up until something tragic happens, lives are destroyed and our nation is left heartbroken.

We’ve seen this played out countless times, far too many times: the Oklahoma City bombing, Columbine, September 11 and Virginia Tech.

As of more recent it was Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT on Dec. 14.

In the early hours of Christmas Eve a similar scenario played out in Webster, NY when firemen who were responding to a blaze were gunned down.

Lt. Mike Chiapperini and Tomasz Kaczowka of the West Webster Fire Department, a volunteer unit, lost their lives and two others were injured. Eight homes were destroyed by the fire.

The blaze had been intentionally set to lure the firefighters into a trap. The person responsible was convicted of manslaughter in 1981 after he killed his grandmother. He was released in 1998. And like the others before him, in his final act of cowardice, the suspect took his own life.

I grew up 20 miles from Webster. I know the town well.

And on Christmas Eve it was hard to hear of something so evil happening so close to home. It was tough to hear from those back home worrying and wondering about loved ones and friends in the fire department.

I typically do not write about these acts of violence in my column because I always feel there’s not much for me to offer. I don’t have any insight on why these things happen or what the correct political response should be. I’ll leave that to others to consider.

There’s always a sense of helplessness and numbness after these tragedies. That is the intention of those that commit these crimes.

However, it is our response to tragedies that always outshines the wickedness. Whether it’s in prayer, donations or other acts of kindness, the human spirit is resilient through the despair and anguish.

It may not seem like it now, but the communities of Newtown and Webster will pull through the heartbreak.

It may begin with a madman, but always ends with love and compassion.

Amanda VanDerBroek is a Staff Writer for the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald. For comments and column suggestions email: or call (252) 332-7209.