By JOSH KOVNER, firstname.lastname@example.org
12:48 AM EDT, August 5, 2010
They were picking their loads when the shooting started.
The older drivers at Hartford Distributors, the guys with the most seniority, always picked their delivery routes first, before the younger drivers got to choose.
The drivers would gather in a small room to talk before getting into their trucks. It was a tight fraternity that produced close friendships, and none was stronger than the bond between Michael Pletscher and Francis Fazio, both 57 and both from Bristol.
Their wives went to grammar school together. Their sons played on the same Pony League baseball team.
Fazio was one of Omar Thornton's eight victims, and Pletscher was struggling Wednesday to drag himself through the day.
"You know, he was a good guy, a hard worker, really close to his family, really involved with his children growing up. His son is in the same local and works for Coca-Cola. Francis used to talk to him every morning about the job,'' Pletscher said.
"He was a friend. I lost quite a few friends. It's hard to deal with. We were basically family,'' he said.
The shooting began shortly before 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, the time the veteran drivers were starting to pick their loads — or routes — throughout Hartford and Tolland counties, Pletscher said.
"The word was that some guys were shot while they were trying to warn their friends to get out of the building. I heard Francis was one of them, and Craig Pepin — they were yelling to other guys as they ran, basically running for their lives,'' Pletscher said.
He said in the small confines of the drivers' room, stories about lives and families and funny times and down times were shared.
Pletscher and Fazio each had about 30 years on the job.
"That's a lot of mornings,'' Pletscher said. "You see the same faces every day. You get close. Most of us were getting near retirement.''
He said Fazio "was usually the first one in in the morning. He never missed a day. He was that type of guy, even after all those years, and this is a physical job.''
The shock waves from Fazio's death began to spread Wednesday morning among his Wolcott Street neighbors as they learned he was one of the victims.
Christina Wallace, a next-door neighbor, broke down in tears.
"Oh my God … I talk to him all the time. He was always out in the yard when he wasn't working, always friendly,'' said Wallace, 41.
Fazio lived with his wife, Patricia, and their son. A daughter, Gina, lives in Plainville and appeared to visit often, Wallace said.
Bristol Mayor Art Ward knew Fazio and considered him "an outstanding individual.'' The mayor, who is related to Pletscher through his wife's family, had spent time with Fazio at family picnics and other functions.
"He was an outgoing, friendly person,'' Ward said.
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