Webster, N.Y. – Steve Marino could not believe what the dispatcher was telling him: "Firefighters down on Lake Road in Webster."
“You’ve never heard of such a thing,” Marino said.
After 9 years as a paramedic with Rural/Metro, Marino has heard and seen a lot.
That experience, however, did not prepare him for what he encountered when he arrived on scene on that cold Christmas Eve morning.
“It was hectic,” he said. “First responders, paramedics, EMTs, police officers, firefighters - everyone trying to figure things out and make a plan.”
His job, in a way, was simple: help the victims, all of them first responders.
“I worked with all of them (the victims) very closely,” Marino said.
Marino was the first person to lay hands on the men, two of whom he knew right away were dead.
“That was the hardest part,” Marino said.
Meanwhile, he knew police had yet to determine the whereabouts of the shooter.
“It was scary. No other word,” he said. “Scared at first, but then for a lot of us, emotions shut down and we went on autopilot.”
Only later did the gravity of the event sink in.
“It was the hardest call of my career thus far,” Marino said.
He has since talked with friends and co-workers about what happened and his respect for the firefighters shot.
“They went doing what they loved… and I know (the two injured firefighters) Ted (Scardino) and Joe (Hofstetter), and they’ll never give it up in their hearts,” he said.
He said attending the funerals for Lt. Mike Chiapperini and Tomasz Kaczowka has helped him cope with the memories and the loss, but he adds his life is changed forever.
“It’s changed me, I don’t know how yet, but I know it has,” he said.