SILVER CREEK - In the wake of tragic events in Buffalo surrounding former Silver Creek resident William "Bill" Sager Jr., those in the local area that were closest to him knew him as a talented athlete and a fun-loving guy.
Tech. Sgt. Sager, a 28-year-old Airman at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station who served overseas in Afghanistan, remains in a coma at the Erie County Medical Center after reportedly being assaulted and pushed down a flight of stairs at Molly's Pub in Buffalo's University District on May 11, striking his head.
The bar's manager, Jeffrey Basil, 35, was arrested in connection to the incident. Basil is a convicted felon.
Tech. Sgt. William Sager Jr.
David Sager of Brant is Bill's brother. In a statement sent to the OBSERVER, David said his brother "was always there for me, so now it's my turn to be there for him."
"My brother was always there for family and friends. Growing up, we played street hockey and stickball. He is a very smart and caring person," David continued, adding Bill recently got offered the job of drone controller at the air reserve station, and even scored exceptionally high on the New York State Trooper exam.
Silver Creek School government teacher Thomas Buczkowski taught Bill Sager in his senior government and economics class. Sager graduated from high school in 2003.
"I'm pretty shocked by the whole thing," said Buczkowski, who visited Sager in the hospital on Saturday. "Billy was always laughing and smiling, working hard and dedicated, and it's just bizarre to see that he would be in a situation like that. He's been out (of the school) for about 11 years, and people still remember him as a good kid, and I think that's significant.
"To see a guy like that (in a coma), who is so full of life, it's heartbreaking."
Athletic Director Sean Helmer agreed. He knew Sager from the football and baseball programs at the school.
Helmer went to see Sager with Buczkowski.
"I knew him since he was in seventh grade," Helmer said. "Definitely just a lot of fun to be around and a great guy. Kids would gravitate toward him. He had a passion for sports, and even did a bit of coaching for us."
Helmer added Sager was the kind of person he would want his boys to hang out with and look up to.
"If anybody can get through this, he can," he said. "He has the whole community behind him."
A prayer service takes place today at 10:30 a.m. at the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park to show support for the critically-injured man. In addition to various members of the armed forces, Sager's fiancee, Erika Webster, as well as his father, William Sager Sr., are expected to talk at the event.
Here in the local area, the Silver Creek faculty will be raising funds today for Sager and his family during the school's Casual Friday.
"I'm the president of the teacher's union, so I'm going to be asking if we can get a donation, as well, for the family," Buczkowski said. "We're raising money to make a donation from a few different areas within the school, so we can get a sizable donation."
A Facebook page entitled "Pray for Bill" has garnered nearly 3,000 likes in support of Sager. A T-shirt campaign has reportedly raised nearly $8,000 in support of the injured man. Those T-shirts, which sport an American flag with the phrases "Doing it live since '85" and "#PrayforBill," can be bought for $20 at www.booster.com/billsager. All profits will go to Bill and his family for medical costs and other financial obligations.
Sager's childhood friend, Second Assistant Chief Brandyn Griewisch of the Silver Creek Fire Department, said he and Sager both grew up on Lincoln Avenue in Silver Creek. Sager moved to the town of Newfane after his house got damaged from the 2009 flood.
"We played street hockey and baseball and football together," Griewisch added. "He was the type of guy who'd do anything for you. You don't realize how good of friends you are until something like this happens. We're praying and hoping and staying strong for him."
Silver Creek Village Mayor Nick Piccolo said he is open to allowing for a community-wide prayer service in the downtown area, depending on the family's wishes.
"On behalf of the village, our prayers are with him daily, and we hope he recovers and comes back to everybody as how people know him as," he added. "It would be great if everything turned out positive for a kid like that."
Until then, an outpouring of prayers and support will continue on for Sager and his family.
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