A Western New York couple who decided to turn a moment of hate into a celebration of diversity is being honored by a state lawmaker for their actions.
Back in June, a pride flag flying outside a Village of Hamburg photography studio owned by Deanna and Katya Kroll-Haeick was taken down and was later found burned in a nearby park.
The Kroll-Haeicks have two young children, who asked the couple why someone would do that. They decided later that day that they would not sugarcoat the incident.
Instead, they decided to fight fire... with flags. They ordered 150 small pride flags for distribution, including placement on lawns and in windows. Several flags were on display in the offices across the street from their shop.
"We initially thought we were just going to deliver them to our friends and family here in the Village of Hamburg," said Katya Kroll-Haeick. "And, as we all know with the internet, that quickly turned viral."
They received donations totaling 250 more flags. They also received a growing list of people interested in receiving one.
"We had a three-page Excel spreadsheet of addresses that we needed to hit, from Eden to Amherst, to West Seneca to Lackawanna, and everywhere in Western New York," Katya Kroll-Haeick continued. "What we just really wanted to show was that one act of hatred, one act like this was not going to be what the Village of Hamburg or Western New York is."
On Thursday, the Kroll-Haeick family was visited by State Assemblyman Sean Ryan, who delivered a proclamation honoring them for how they responded to the original incident.
Katya Kroll-Haeick speaks of how her family responded to a hate incident in June. Her wife, Deanna, and their children stand at right while behind her stands State Assemblyman Sean Ryan.Credit Michael Mroziak, WBFOEdit | Remove
"You could turn this into a few things. You could get angry, or you could use it as a teachable moment," Ryan said. "Deanna and her wife Katya, they turned it into a teachable moment where they used this to bring the community together."
Ryan also delivered another pride flag, though two were already flying outside the business, one featuring a standing bison in front of the rainbow stripes.
Katya Kroll-Haeick says the community responded in a way they couldn't imagine.
"We believe it has just given the community a voice," she said. "It's given people in the community who may have also not had the courage to hang their flag, they have it now as they see their neighbors with them in their lawn. We have heard stories from military veterans, mothers of transgender children, and all across Western New York whom this has impacted."