Surprise Squad helps couple who lost everything in house fire

It was April 9, around 4 a.m., when Erika Morrissey and Al Topjian were sound asleep in their Chicopee home.
Updated: Aug. 25, 2021 at 5:18 PM EDT
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CHICOPEE, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- This edition of the Western Mass News Surprise Squad, sponsored by the Hyundai Dealers of Western Massachusetts, focuses on a couple whose lives were upended by a house fire. However, as we found out, they have a great network of support and are aching for an experience to take their mind off of things.

It was April 9, around 4 a.m., when Erika Morrissey and Al Topjian were sound asleep in their Chicopee home.

“We were in different parts of the house. I fell asleep on the couch. She fell asleep in the bedroom. She heard the popping,” Topjian said

Morrissey said she was woken by a noise, perhaps a pounding on the door, and went to investigate.

“The carport was completely on fire…Called out to Al to get up and get out of the house…The fire just ripped through the house once we got out the front door,” Morrissey noted.

Topjian added, “I thought I could put it out with the hose, ran around the side of the house was like ‘Nope, can’t do that.’’”

In a matter of minutes, their home of five-and-a-half years and everything in it was gone, even their cars.

“It all just went away that day,” Morrissey added.

It was an unimaginable loss for this couple, but made better, they said, through support and good times had with family and friends.

“She has a heart of gold,” Morrissey said.

Morrissey’s co-worker at Baystate Wing Hospital in Palmer, Luann Lauzier, nominated Morrissey for this surprise.

“She comes in with a great big smile, willing to help anybody. When she has her bad moments, she just passes it along and keeps on smiling with us,” Lauzier said.

Lauzier told us that these music lovers really need a mental escape, like a concert. She said it’s one of the couple’s favorite hobbies. Between the fire and pandemic, that’s been tough for the couple to live out…until now.

While we stalled Morrissey and Topjia, the Surprise Squad got ready for this moment.

We hit them with our best shot. The couple scored a pair of VIP tickets to the Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo show at The Big E this fall, which includes all-access to the pre-soundcheck and a Q&A with Benatar.

That wasn’t all.

“On behalf of the Western Mass. Hyundai Dealers, we’d like to present you with this check for $500,” said Carla Cosenzi with Tommy Car Auto Group.

Brian Houser with Balise Hyundai added, “Hyundai realizes that sometimes bad things happen to good people.”

Tim Ferreira with Gary Rome Hyundai explained, “Even if it’s just to give them one night out with Pat Benatar tickets and a few extra dollars to help pay a bill, anything we can do to help makes something good of a bad situation.”

You can nominate someone special by emailing