Webster, N.Y.-- It was supposed to be a training night for the West Webster Volunteer Fire Department, but instead, each member of the department sat down with a pen and a stack of letters and envelopes.
On Tuesday evening, around 75 firefighters and their families gathered at Station #1 on Gravel Road to write letters to the people who have given them support during their darkest hour.
On Christmas Eve, West Webster firefighters Tomasz Kaczowka and Mike Chiapperini were shot and killed as they responded to a fire on Lake Road in Webster.
Since the shooting, the community's display of support for the West Webster Fire Department has been overwhelming. The department has received thousands of dollars in monetary donations and also donations of food. People have written letters or sent cards or e-mails. Others have hugged the firefighters or simply said 'Thank you'.
"I'm completely overwhelmed," said Nicki Ditch, a West Webster EMS Captain. "I shouldn't be surprised but it's hard not to be. There is so much good out there."
For every supporter who has left an address, the fire department printed out a letter to send back. On Tuesday, the firefighters and their families added a personal touch to the letters by adding a handwritten message at the bottom.
"I'm writing 'Thank you so much for the good you have shown and have extended to our family. Take care and stay safe.'" said Ditch.
"We had so much support and love from the world that it was very important to us to do this," said Corrine Volo of the West Webster Fire Ladies Auxiliary. "It's the least we can do to thank people for what they've done."
Even firefighter Ted Scardino, one of the two survivors in the shooting, was there. His arm was in a sling, but still joined his brothers to write letters of thanks.
In all, the department wrote about 2,000 letters. Some are going as far as Australia.
The department says the support from near and far helps them heal.
"We're finding a new normal," said Ditch. "Normal has definitely changed. We're finding a new normal. You know, getting back to running calls and doing what we do well."
When asked if he had a message for his community, West Webster firefighter George Glessner said this:
"Just that we're very grateful for everything you're doing for us. We're always here for you now. We've always have been and we always will be."