Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Recalling the one year anniversary of the West Webster tragedies

On Facebook today, my former Democrat and Chronicle colleagues are posting their recounts of Christmas Eve 2012 and the tragedies that happened in West Webster. I will follow suit.

It was a day that was hard to forget.

That morning I figured I was in for an easy day at work and thought I could sleep in a bit. Then I checked my phone and leapt out of bed, barely took time to put myself together and went to the office. I saw the footage of smoke streaming up over Lake Ontario on the various TVs as I headed into the building.

As we'd later find out, a man named William Spengler had killed his sister, set the house ablaze and waited to ambush first responders. Two were killed. Two were injured.

"Don't take your coat off," my editor said when I got to the fourth floor. Beats aside, all hands on deck, I was going to Webster.

I stood out in the cold for several hours with the other reporters trying to gauge what was up before I was tasked with community reaction. Normally we were a chatty, social bunch but today things were tense and worried.

I went to a Webster bar. Instead of catching up and blowing off steam from shopping and cooking, people sat quietly around the tables, jumping and crowding around the television whenever a reporter cut in.

It had gotten late in the newsroom and people were working hard on a day they should have been cutting out early. Very apologetically, I was asked to cover the vigil back in Webster. I assured them I didn't mind, I had celebrated Christmas with my family a week earlier, but it was still hard standing there knowing those outside the fire house surely would rather be doing something else on Christmas Eve, but felt a pressing need to be there instead.

The fire chief hadn't planned on making a statement, but seeing the overwhelming crowd he came out, but barely choked out a few words.

One week later I covered the funeral of Tomasz Kaczowka, a 19-year-old who had volunteered for duty that day. Firefighters from across the state and beyond came to honor him.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Life in Albany

Once again, I've been a bad blogger. Life has been moving in fast-forward since I moved here, I feel like I blinked and the move, my birthday and the NYC trip went past, and I'm realizing it's probably about time to buy some Christmas presents.

(I still have 7 days. #plentyoftime.)

So here are some random notes from the past few weeks:

Since I moved here, I've gotten exactly one run in. Part of that's by design, since I'm not training for anything at the moment, I might as well put my expendable energy into getting my apartment together. I'm getting close. Amazon is delivering a table. I just need a couch.

Bronchitis is singlehandedly the worst thing on the planet. I reliably get a cold-flu-sinus thing when the seasons change, and two weeks ago after being a little sniffly I thought I had gotten off easy. But the next week I'm sitting in a hearing in New York City and my nose won't stop running. I limp through the rest of my trip, go home then later end up in urgent care. The next three days become a haze of falling in and out of drug induced naps as Despicable Me plays on a loop in the background. Thank you, Redbox.

Do I love New York? I haven't been since 2008, but I spent a couple days there last week. Knowing my superior sense of navigation, I was quite proud of myself for not getting lost on the subway system. I generally don't love crowded places, but the energy was fun. Plus getting to finally meet many of my coworkers was wonderful. Next time I go, though, I'd prefer it to be a few degrees warmer, and you know, not be coming down with bronchitis.

I guess I'm 30 now. Doesn't really feel any different. Plus I'm no longer competing with all the speedy 20-somethings at races. Yea. #brightside.

About the job. After almost two months, I'm finally starting to settle in. I work in New York's capital building in a small windowless area with all the other reporters. Our four-person (we're adding a fifth soon) office functions well, it's a good and talented team. In between my immediate colleagues and the New York City office there's a lot of passion for what we do, and it's exciting to work in such an environment. I'm excited for the hustle and bustle of the legislative session.

And the apartment. It still has a ways to go, but I'm enjoying where I'm living. I ordered a kitchen table online, so next I need a couch, then a TV. Brandy dog is relieved that there are no tile floors, which she has trouble walking on.

My neighborhood is Center Square in Albany, and my apartment is a half mile away from work. Living on Lark and State is great, everything is so close. The dogs love walking through Washington Park. I realized the downside of street parking with the snowstorm this weekend, but fortunately the job comes with a parking spot, so I've been leaving the car at work so I don't have to deal with it.

I found a new coffee shop. In Rochester, I lived at Boulder Coffee Company. Here my place of choice is The Daily Grind, right near my apartment. I'm dangerously addicted to their lattes.