Sean Kirst, The Buffalo News
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Sean Kirst

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Sean Kirst is a columnist for The Buffalo News. Raised in Dunkirk, he has been an Upstate journalist for more than 40 years.

Even the way Steve Boyd met Mickey Osterreicher was unforgettable, and distinctly Buffalo. In 1989, Boyd was on his first day as a television reporter with Channel 7. He was a passenger in a car driven northbound by a cameraman on Interstate 190, through downtown. Boyd learned he'd been reassigned to a story about the nuclear waste dump in West Valley. Osterreicher was …

 There are certain moments, in a long Upstate journalism career, in which you know you were absolutely fortunate, absolutely blessed. That is how I remember the many times I would be at the Syracuse City School District offices, waiting for an interview with someone, and Neil Driscoll would bring me in to simply sit and talk ... And he'd lean back in his chair, gli…

Doug Cameron is a guy who knew some answers. A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece on the day in 1976 when Southern rock legend Gregg Allman, in Buffalo for treatment for addiction, did a surprise concert at Canisius High School. He startled hundreds of students gathered for what they thought would be a routine assembly. Allman died a few weeks ago, from complications relate…

The decision to travel to Buffalo was really made six years ago, when Jorge Suarez Ronda held his newborn son for the first time. The doctors in Cuba had already told Jorge and his wife Vanaisy there could be no guarantees. They could not promise that little Diego would survive. The infant weighed only 3 pounds at birth. He was born with severe developmental disabilitie…

In his pocket, Greg Johnson's cellphone wouldn't stop pinging. The acting principal of the Dr. George Blackman School of Excellence, or School 54, guessed he was receiving repeated news alerts Wednesday morning, and that some big national story must be breaking. Even so, he was in no position to check his phone. He stood before hundreds of joyous Buffalo schoolchildren,…

Barbara Campagna and Susan Penczkowski started on opposite sides of the crowd last Thursday inside One Seneca Tower, but they were drawn toward one another, like magnets. They kept reacting to the moment in the same delighted way, and they were glad someone else could understand what they were thinking. Inside the 1970s stone emptiness of the tower's main concourse, …

Jessica Falco stopped using heroin on June 25, 2014. The third anniversary of that decision will be later this month, but she cannot allow herself any early celebration. They teach you in 12-step programs to go day by day, to break life into small segments that begin with each new dawn. Falco sat in her Dunkirk home last week, her infant son in her arms. She said she ha…

Four years ago, Manya Chylinski was in the crowd near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. She was there when a terrorist's bomb went off, across the street. She was not burned by fire, or hit by shards of shrapnel. Still, it is the scars she carried away from that explosion that bring her to Buffalo Wednesday. "I refer to what happened to me as an injury," …

Over the past two days, after we published a column recalling Gregg Allman's against-all-odds surprise concert for several hundred stunned teenagers during a Canisius High School "assembly" in 1976, many readers have asked the same question: Where can they hear a recording of the performance at the heart of the piece, in which Allman was backed up by a band called "The…

Brian Procknal hoped the call was from the manager of a nearby McDonald's. More than 40 years ago, the phone rang one autumn afternoon in the kitchen of his South Buffalo home, back in the time when people still had one main "land line" in the house. His mother, Mary Downey, answered it. She told her son a man whose voice she didn't recognize wanted to speak with him. …

On a quiet night this week, as I read through the death notices at my desk in the newsroom, a listing jumped out at me in the way it sometimes happens. A familiar name, out of nowhere, sent a jolt through my stomach. William Gill III. If this happened to be the guy I knew, we had always called him Billy. I wasn't sure at first. The name isn't that uncommon. Still,…

I wrote a column for Sunday's News that was essentially built around the reunion of my parents, just after the end of World War II. They were both West Siders, from Buffalo. My father had been in the Pacific. They suffered an unbearable family tragedy during the war. The moment my dad saw my mother at the station was the moment that they began to heal. A flood of reader…

From a distance Friday, you could see the two of them, solitary figures searching the ground in a green plot at Forest Lawn. They were in a section filled with rows upon rows of identical veterans’ graves near the Main Street fence – a place where a single tombstone can seem as hard to find as a grain of sand. Grover Coleman Jr. kept one arm around the shoulders of …

My father told me the story only once, less than two years before he died. He was smoking a cigarette on the sidewalk, by a Dunkirk street where workers from the nearby steel plant flooded past each afternoon. This was more than 30 years ago. My mother was at the kitchen table inside our house, already staggered by the lung cancer that would take her life. That moment r…

The picture seemed to explode into life on Facebook. It appeared in the Utica Observer-Dispatch, and it showed "Mr. Utica College" front and center on the stage, on graduation day. His arms were in the air, thrown up with spontaneous passion, cap in one hand while the young man’s face was eclipsed by utter joy. If you wanted the definition of education as triumph, the…