Brandywine remembers 9/11, honors Topton firefighter

Brandywine Heights School District recognized Topton firefighter Dale Warmkessel for his years of service to the community during the Sept. 11th remembrance ceremony. He stands in front of Sept. 11th remembrance wall in the school rotunda.
Brandywine Heights School District recognized Topton firefighter Dale Warmkessel for his years of service to the community during the Sept. 11th remembrance ceremony. He stands in front of Sept. 11th remembrance wall in the school rotunda. Lisa Mitchell - Digital First Media
Brandywine Heights Middle School Assistant Principal Matthew Dziunycz shared his memories of Sept. 11, 2001 during the Brandywine Sept. 11th remembrance ceremony, commemorating the 16th anniversary of the terroristic attacks.
Brandywine Heights Middle School Assistant Principal Matthew Dziunycz shared his memories of Sept. 11, 2001 during the Brandywine Sept. 11th remembrance ceremony, commemorating the 16th anniversary of the terroristic attacks. Lisa Mitchell - Digital First Media

Brandywine Heights School District hosted a Sept. 11th remembrance ceremony, commemorating the 16th anniversary of the terroristic attacks. During the ceremony, 44-year-Topton firefighter Dale Warmkessel was presented a plaque to recognize his years of service to the community.

“In order to commemorate the anniversary of the worst act of terrorism perpetrated on humanity and to honor the innocent Americans and civilians who lost their lives that day, this year, and each year following, our school will hold a Sept. 11th remembrance ceremony,” said Brandywine Heights Intermediate and Middle School Principal Robert Farina to the students filling the middle school auditorium on Sept. 11. “We will dedicate an area in our first floor rotunda to the men and women of our community and our country who have dedicated their lives to serving us and ensuring our safety and our security. The inspiration for today belongs to those who served our country in the Armed Forces, police force, firefighters and EMTs. And especially to our honored guest Mr. Dale Warmkessel.”

Brandywine recognized Warmkessel, a 1972 Brandywine graduate, for his years of service to the community as a firefighter.

“To commemorate today, the 16th anniversary of Sept. 11th terroristic attacks, we are honoring an individual who sat in the very chairs that you are occupying today and has since that time dedicated himself to the community and their safety in his role as a firefighter in our local community,” said Farina.

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Warmkessel has volunteered for Topton Volunteer Fire Company since 1973, having served as assistant chief for 18 years and fire chief for three years. He is the 262nd person to achieve the distinction of PA Fire Fighter I certification, which has now become a standard for new firefighter members, said Farina.

After graciously accepting the award, Warmkessel said, “Everyone sitting here can one day be that person when your neighbor needs help and you rush to help.”

Warmkessel hopes the event sparks an interest for students.

“They see the pictures up on that screen of what actually happened... I can remember it like it was yesterday,” said Warmkessel, who was working that day making deliveries. “I hope it inspires them, if it’s not to help us, it’s any community service or when they see somebody that needs help to try to help them.”

Brandywine Heights Middle School Assistant Principal Matthew Dziunycz shared his memories of Sept. 11, 2001 during the ceremony.

“I find it incredibly important that we look at today as a day of remembrance and a time to pause and think about the countless number of people who were affected by the tragic events of Sept. 11th,” said Dziunycz.

At the time, he was a student at West Chester University, watching the events of that day unfold on the TV screen, at first in disbelief until the second plane struck the World Trade Center South Tower.

“That moment will forever be frozen in time. All ideas of error, accident and malfunction was completely washed away and replaced by shock, fear and terror for all those who were involved and needed help in that very moment.”

He said many felt dread, fear and hopelessness, unsure of what to do next. Then, shortly after, another plane crashed into the Pentagon and then another crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. He remembers a series of images, of people running, of people scared, of fear and loss, but also of people helping people, refusing to give into fear, images of determination.

During the days after the attacks, Dziunycz remembers a friend putting his college education on hold to enlist in the U.S. Army, saying, “I have to do something.”

Dziunycz said his friend’s unselfish act in response to an awful situation stands out in his mind. The lesson he learned from his friend in college was to help people in need and to represent the good in our country.

“In the spirit of doing that I think many of us can strive to imitate in our everyday lives, exemplifying that same spirit are the men and women who serve our community,” he said. “The honor, bravery, selflessness, and dedication that these men and women represent fills me with a pride of our country that I cannot express whole-heartedly enough. It is through your bravery and efforts that many of us can continue to carry on in what we do everyday, not in the face of fear or defeat but with a hope and pride and our freedom to continue to work toward making this place, and many others like it, the best place it can be.”

After the event, Dziunycz said he hopes students realize how impacted they are by the local community and all of the good that our firefighters, police and first responders here do.

“(Sept. 11th) was such a tremendous display of what can happen when first responders and people are helping people,” he said.

Dziunycz hopes this event inspires students to help others.

About the Author

Lisa Mitchell

Lisa Mitchell is the editor of The Kutztown Patriot and Managing Editor of Berks-Mont Newspapers. Reach the author at lmitchell@berksmontnews.com or follow Lisa on Twitter: @kutztownpatriot.