By JESSE LEAVENWORTH, email@example.com
The Hartford Courant
5:22 PM EDT, August 3, 2011
One year ago, Enfield police Officer William Vieweg was standing beside a golf cart outside Hartford Distributors Inc. looking at what he thought was a dead man in the driver's seat.
Vieweg had been working a regional truck enforcement detail nearby and was one of the first officers on the scene. Told just after arriving at HDI that there was a gunman on the loose, the 26-year veteran was preparing to enter the building with other officers when he heard a moan from the man slumped over the golf cart's steering wheel. Shot three times, HDI employee Jerome Rosenstein was still alive.
Vieweg grabbed Rosenstein, pulled him to the ground and dragged him by his belt across the parking lot to safety.
On Wednesday, Rosenstein addressed a silent crowd at the dedication of a memorial honoring the eight men who were killed on Aug. 3, 2010, by HDI truck driver Omar Thornton.
PHOTOS: Hartford Distributors Memorial
"We took a sucker punch to our very soul and it knocked us to our knees," he said.
HDI workers "may have been bent, but we were never broken," Rosenstein said. "We took back our company."
He and other speakers addressed family, friends, co-workers and emergency responders to mark the dedication of a memorial garden with eight stainless steel pillars. Connected by steel ribbons that curve over the tops, the pillars were inscribed with quotes, poems or biographical sketches of the HDI workers who were gunned down by Thornton, who killed himself as police closed in.
Manchester Mayor Lou Spadaccini contrasted the peaceful ceremony Wednesday with the scene he witnessed that summer morning last year. Arriving shortly after the shooting ended, Spadaccini said that he had to "take my eyes away for a moment from the terrible suffering all around me" and stare into the green woods on the beer distributor's grounds, the same stand of woods that now surrounds the sun-speckled memorial garden.
"It is our hope," Spadaccini told the crowd, "that you will find some measure of peace in these surroundings."
The speakers at the dedication, including Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, did not mention Thornton's name. They spoke instead of the eight victims — Edwin Kennison, Louis Felder, William Ackerman, Bryan Cirigliano, Francis Fazio Sr., Douglas Scruton, Victor James and Craig Pepin.
Malloy said the memorial was about the men's lives, not their deaths. He thanked all those involved in funding and building the memorial.
Over several months, the Rotary Club of Manchester gathered money and promises of material and labor. The final price tag for the memorial garden was $57,118, organizer Dave Skoczulek said Wednesday. Any money raised beyond that amount will be donated to the victims' familes, Skoczulek said. The project came in significantly under the $70,000 estimate, he said, in part because more material and labor was donated than organizers originally had figured.
The memorial garden also includes granite benches, a crushed stone path and a landscape of perennials and shrubs. At the entrance is a black tablet that says, in part, "If tears could build a stairway/And memories were a lane/We would walk all the way to heaven/To bring you back again."
Jerome Rosenstein's son, Michael Rosenstein, said before the ceremony that his father continues to recover. Asked what he thought of the memorial, Michael Rosenstein said, "I think it's beautiful and it's a great tribute to dedicate and remember all of the fallen employees of this terrible tragedy."
HDI President and CEO Ross Hollander told the crowd that the memorial is a serene setting that is "always here when we need a moment of peace."
Near the end of the ceremony, family members released eight white doves, which circled in the sky for about a minute in a tight group before flying off together. White doves were significant to Bryan Cirigliano's family and to HDI union representative Christopher Roos. Both related stories about white doves visiting their families for eight straight days after the shootings, and both felt that the doves represented the souls of the slain workers.
The ceremony closed with a lone bagpiper playing "Amazing Grace."
These are some of the inscriptions on the pillars, which also include sealed time capsules to hold family mementos:
Edwin Kennison: "Daddy, I'll always be your little girl, my love for you will never part. For you reside with Jesus now and forever in my heart. Love always, Ashley."
William Ackerman: "Sweet William. The special guy — special blue eyes — our hearts will always ache."
Douglas Scruton: "He was a hard worker, loving husband, brother, uncle, a loyal friend, and sports fan and loved nature and traveling. You could always count on Doug to be there when you needed him."
Victor James: "G" "He had such a zest for life and that made you want to be around him. The memory of his love will always surround us."
Louis Felder: "A mind of wisdom … A spirit of a fighter ... A heart of compassion … From strength came sweetness."
Bryan Cirigliano: "The love of a family is life's greatest blessing."
Fran J. Fazio Sr. "I'd like the memory of me to be a happy one. I'd like to leave an afterglow of smiles when life is done."
Craig Pepin: "Pep was one of a kind. He was an amazing and loving dad, and an incredible and thoughtful Husband."