"Put your head down and count to 10."
That's what Chief Photographer Paul DePascale told me when I asked him how to go about doing your job when the story is hard to swallow.
"You're a person too, man. It's normal."
That's what photographer Carl Shuba told me the first day I interned at 13WHAM last May when he explained to me that not everything we cover in Rochester is going to be easy.
Days like today, I'm not sure either of those apply. My experience in journalism is merely a blink of the eye compared to the people I work with.
They get it. Often times, I don't.
But today was a day that hit home.
My job entails monitoring scanners across Monroe County. Like everyone else in Rochester media with similar duties, what I hear inspires me -- the desire of responders to help those in need.
To keep them safe from harm.
Across this area, there are many people who listen to scanners at their leisure.
Today, I heard stories of these men waking up to a real-time horror story through their sets.
A horror story that we now know to be true.
Tomasz Kaczowka and Lieutenant Mike Chiapperini represent the best of what Rochester is, and will always be.
Caring, and loyal to their community.
Tomasz was young. He had only been a firefighter at West Webster FD for a year. Before that, he was in their explorer program. He was 100 percent committed to his community, with the goal of becoming a paid firefighter. He was your next door neighbor. The kid in your neighborhood who always waves as you drive by. From the stories I've heard and read today - he was so much, to so many.
Mike Chiapperini was a lieutenant in the Webster Police Department, and volunteer at West Webster FD -- where just two weeks ago he was named Firefighter of the Year. One of the most well-respected and liked men to wear a uniform in this area. A hero to many.
Both of these men - both of these heroes - have left behind a grateful community.
They've left behind their families all too early.
And they've left behind their brothers -- those who they serve with.
My short time working at 13WHAM has taught me how close-knit these volunteer firefighters are. They do so much, and expect so little, each day they serve.
They are the best of what Rochester has to offer.
Christmas won't be the same in Rochester this year. But what will remain are the most loyal public servants. Our neighbors, our friends, our family members, all who train to protect us -- on their watch.
This community will rally behind Joseph Hofstetter and Theodore Scardino. We will give them our absolute best, just as they did so for us.
We owe them that.
On this Christmas, give the gift of a thank you, a hand shake, and a hug to those who serve your community.
For without them, we wouldn't be so lucky to live in a town that cares so much - about those we don't even know.
- Joe Leverone, Assignment Desk Assistant