By Mike Pidanick
It's been a difficult few weeks in North Tonawanda, but Common Council members expressed their appreciation for the way the community responded to the unthinkable actions against Gratwick Hose Fire Company volunteer firefighter Kenneth Walker earlier this month.
On Aug. 1, Walker received a letter in his mailbox indicating if he did not leave the fire department he would "regret it." Two days later, his home burned. The next day, former firefighter Matthew Jurado was arrested and charged with arson.
The community has responded by raising more than $150,000 for Walker.
"North Tonawanda stated to the world, really, that a few bad actors do not define this community," Alderman Bob Pecoraro said at Tuesday's Common Council meeting at City Hall. "The citizens of North Tonawanda spoke loud and clear when they gave the support to Ken Walker. I want to thank the citizens of North Tonawanda ... (for) showing what they're truly all about and showing that one or two bad apples do not spoil the city."
Mayor Arthur G. Pappas offered his kudos to the NT police and fire authorities for the "outstanding work they did."
"A very serious situation was handled very quickly," he said. "I think we all made it clear ... that we were not going to tolerate behavior in our community that was a danger to our population."
"This just goes to show that we have pride in North Tonawanda, we have pride in our community," he added. "We do come together in difficult situations."
Pecoraro also spoke Tuesday evening about North Tonawanda Healing Field festivities in tribute to the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. At Gratwick Riverside Park there will be 3,000 flags on display, each representing someone in the community deemed worthy of recognition as well as someone lost in the 2001 terrorist attacks.
Pecoraro encouraged community members to check out the event - which will run from Sept. 9-11 - "if you want to be impressed."