Marking the grim anniversary of an officer's death
One year ago, everything changed for Anna Korutowska and her family.
A police officer came to her door, shortly after 5 a.m. on Dec. 29, 2009. He came to tell her that her husband, Const. Ireneusz "Eric" Czapnik, 51, had been stabbed to death earlier that morning as he sat in his police cruiser outside the Ottawa Hospital.
It was a random and unprovoked attack; one that left Korutowska without her husband, and his four children without a father. His youngest child, Anthony, was only three at the time.
"It's always on my mind . . . how scary that moment was," Korutowska told CTV Ottawa in an exclusive interview earlier this month. "I play it over and over and over again."
One year later, officers marked the anniversary on Wednesday with a private memorial at Ottawa Police Association headquarters on Catherine Street. They later paid their respects with a vigil at the Fallen Officers Hall of Honour on Parliament Hill.
In the weeks after Czapnik's senseless murder, public mourning gripped the city. More than 8,000 people attended his funeral at the Civic Centre. A parade of police officers marched behind his coffin as it made its way through Ottawa's streets, bringing the city to a standstill.
Czapnik decided to become a police officer when he was 48 years old, fulfilling his life-long dream to follow in the footsteps of his father, who was an officer in Poland for 30 years. He was the oldest recruit ever hired by the Ottawa Police Service.
"I've never seen someone want something so much," Police Chief Vern White said at his funeral in early January. "It was something he always wanted."
Now, Eric's family says his strong belief in pursuing dreams is helping them carry on without him.
"I know he wants me to go on with life, to realize the dreams we had, to enjoy life," Korutowska said. "Our dreams and our plans . . . I plan to pursue most of them."
Pursuing those dreams starts with getting back to normal. Korutowska has returned to work and Anthony is now in school. They decorated their home for Christmas and celebrated with family and friends.
Still, Czapnik is always on their mind. Korutowska says whenever she told Anthony to be good because Santa was watching, her four-year-old son replied: "Daddy is watching too."
Anthony also talks about becoming a police officer, just like his father.
Korutowska doesn't mind.
"It was Eric's dream and his destiny," she said. "This is what was supposed to happen."
"I would be okay with that [Anthony becoming a police officer]."