Eleven-year-old Piper Rupp and her sister, Brielle, 9, went to the nearby Norwalk home of Barbara Knupke to sell candy for League Elementary. When the siblings heard the 76-year-old woman call for help, they found Knupke had fallen down her basement stairs and got her the medical assistance she needed.
Knupke, who lives about two blocks from the girls, is grateful for their quick thinking.
“I am so proud of them,” she said. “They did what they were supposed to do. … I can’t thank them enough.”
While some people may have walked away from the situation, the girls deserve credit for doing the right thing, Knupke added.
Tessa Rupp, the girls’ mother, and her husband Chris were in Texas. She said was surprised to receive a text from a friend to learn how heroic her daughters had been. Rupp learned about the incident about an hour after it happened.
“We got the call they were heroes,” said Rupp, whose niece was watching the girls while their parents were taking care of family business.
“I was shocked when I heard,” the mother added. “I was like, ‘I am so proud of you.’ I was overwhelmed. … I’m proud of how they handled the situation.”
The sisters were in their neighborhood attempting to get people to buy candy bars for a League Elementary fundraiser. Brielle, a fourth-grade student there, said they had been to about five houses when they saw Knupke sweeping her front porch, so they approached her.
“She went inside to her money,” said Piper, who is in the fifth grade at Main Street Intermediate School. “At one point, she ended up falling down her steps and started yelling (for help). … I actually yelled, ‘Are you OK?’ I think she said no.”
Handling the emergency
The girls, who had been taught not to enter a stranger’s home, eventually went into Knupke’s house and looked for the woman. They found her at the bottom of the basement stairs.
“I told her, ‘Call 9-1-1,’” said Knupke, who noted the sisters had been on her porch before they heard her cries for help and entered her house. “They waited a good 15 or 20 minutes.”
Knupke said she remembered Piper was calm and “being very adult about it all” as she had her sister contact an adult at their house and used her “little pink phone” to call 9-1-1.
Piper had a different perspective.
“I was nervous because my hands were shaking,” said the 11-year-old girl, who tried to stay calm. “She was kinda relieved and scared at the same time. … She said she couldn’t move the bottom half of her body because her hip was really hurting.”
Knupke told Fox 8 Cleveland that when she went downstairs to get her purse, “I managed to get down a few steps but then I fell the last two, thinking I was at the bottom.”
“I hit my head and my knee and I couldn’t move,” she added.
Previously, Piper had taken a babysitting class at EHOVE Career Center.
“It taught us what to do in an emergency,” said Piper, who told her sister to run to their house and notify an adult.
Brielle, who was wearing flip-flops, said she couldn’t run in them, so she ran in her bare feet to contact a family friend.
Firefighters, police and North Central EMS responded to Knupke’s house.
“She broke her hip, fractured her pelvis and had a brain bleed,” Tessa Rupp said.
North Central transported Knupke to Fisher-Titus Medical Center. She later was transferred to The Willows at Willard, where she spent slightly longer than a week.
“They are doing a great job with her rehab. She really improved since she has been there,” said Knupke’s daughter, Melanie Langjahr.
Her mother, described as a “strong woman,” is determined to get better, Langjahr added. She said she was pleased with the sisters’ initiative in helping her mom.
“She feels like they were little angels sent from heaven to help her,” Langjahr said.
The Norwalk Reflector interviewed Knupke by phone shortly after a doctor’s appointment Friday morning.
“He said everything looked pretty good,” she said. “I’m in no pain or anything like that.”
Rupp said she is proud of how her daughters handled the situation.
“She (Piper) knew something wasn’t right. She just used her instincts,” the mother added. “She (Knupke) gets really emotional every time she talks about it. She says these girls are angels. We are a part of her family and they’re not getting rid of us.”