BUFFALO N.Y. (WIVB) - Friends and loved ones of critically injured Air National Guardsman Bill Sager gathered for an emotional show of support on the same day his accused attacker faced a judge. Sager is fighting for his life at the Erie County Medical Center after allegedly being thrown down a flight of stairs at Molly’s Pub in Buffalo on May 11th. Bar manager, Jeffrey Basil, has been accused of assault.
The Sager family has shown great courage in the days following the incident. They received even more encouragement from relatives, friends, and members from various branches of the armed forces who assembled at the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park on Friday. Memorial Day has always been a special holiday for Bill Sager, who felt compelled to join the military after the 9-1-1 attacks on the United States.
The family says there has been a great outpouring of support from around the country. They cling to the belief that Sager will somehow recover from the severe brain injury he suffered. “We’re hoping for our miracle,” said Erika Webster, Bill’s fiancee. The one year anniversary of their engagement was May 20th. Erika has been staying at Bill’s bedside, often talking to him softly and reassuring him that so many people are praying for his recovery. There are no assurances. “It’s…too early to be able to tell anything definitively,” she told me. “It’s going to be day by day for a long time.” But she added “We believe he hears us. We just tell him we believe in him, we know he can do this, and that he’s the strongest person we know, and if anybody can get through this, it’s him.”
The family shared a special moment with News 4. It was a cell phone video of Bill’s proposal to Erika. She can be seen leaping with joy after he got down on one knee and surprised her with a ring. Bill often talked to friends about his desire to raise a family with Erika.
Bill Sager, Sr., Bill’s father, stood next to Erika and told the gathering “It’s pretty hard for me right now. We’re all sticking together, family, friends. He has a lot of friends.” Mr. Sager talked about his son’s patriotism and love of sports and music. “You couldn’t find a better citizen,” he said.
Friends know about Bill Jr.’s sense of duty. He served in Afghanistan in 2011 and volunteered for many relief efforts as a C-130 cargo plane crew chief for the 107th Airlift Wing based in Niagara Falls. He was also mid-way through applying to become a New York State Trooper, but also was offered a job with the 107th, when the Wing converts to the operation of drones.
500 “Pray for Bill” tee shirts have already been sold to help pay his expenses. The fundraising drive is being organized by some friends at the air base. Tee shirt organizer Tony Re maintains hope for his friend. They served in Afghanistan together. “If this is something you can come back from, he’ll come back…he’s a strong individual. He’s young. He’s healthy, and hes got a very strong will.” Staff Sgt.Kristina Brown said “We’re all here. We’re all going to give back to him what he gave to us, and we’re going to be with him for the long haul.” A charitable trust has also been created, which will allow donors to contribute at any M&T Bank branches, according to family attorney Francis Letro.
It is possible a civil suit may be launched in the weeks ahead. Attorney Letro, acting on behalf of the Sager family, has gotten the courts to make sure the evidence surrounding Bill’s alleged assault is not destroyed. The move was made, he said “simply to protect Bill’s future legal rights and interest, whatever they may be.” He added “We have not considered any potential defendants or targets.”
Lawsuits were not the focus of the gathering at Buffalo’s Naval and Military Park. It was all about Bill Sager’s character and the family’s courage in the face of adversity. One of Bill’s friends at the gathering, Sgt. Greg Silwa told me “We’re hoping for a miracle, and for him, the way he is, I believe it’s going to happen.”