BUFFALO, N.Y. - It was one year ago when the only African-American volunteer firefighter in the city of North Tonawanda received a racist and threatening letter before his home was torched.
Ken Walker said there have been highs and lows over the last 12 months. He admits it still bothers him that a former neighbor and member of the Gratwick Volunteer Fire Company was responsible for setting his home on fire. Fortunately, no one was injured.
One day before the fire, Walker received a letter in his mailbox, using the "N-word" and stating that he should resign from the fire department or "regret it."
Ironically, an email was sent to the WGRZ-TV tipline from a Matt Jurado. He wrote, "My friend Ken Walker is the only African-American received a threatening letter."
Jurado was arrested and is now serving a 10-year prison sentence for arson.
Walker said at this time he can't forgive Jurado.
Western New York and people across the country raised over $100,000.
"It truly has been eye-opening for me," said Walker.
While the incident cast a black eye on the city of North Tonawanda, Walker said "everyone in the department treated me as I was an equal. I never had a perception that anyone in North Tonawanda was racist, from the fire department, I was always treated as an equal."
Walker currently volunteers with Tri-Community Ambulance and plans to join a local volunteer fire company in a few months.