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'Calm, cool and collected' sisters honored by mayor

Cary Ashby • Oct 30, 2019 at 11:00 PM

Two elementary school-age sisters have been recognized officially as local heroes.

Piper Rupp, 11, and her sister, Brielle, 9, received the city of Norwalk Citizens Lifesaving Award from Mayor Rob Duncan at the fire station Tuesday night. The siblings were honored for getting the necessary medical attention for nearby neighbor Barbara Knupke, who had fallen down her basement stairs while getting money for the candy bars the girls were selling for League Elementary.

“You did the right thing in a time of crisis when you could have walked away,” Duncan said. “These two young ladies were her heroes.”

Safety-service director Ellen Heinz described the girls as courageous and calm in seeking help for Knupke.

“We are so thankful,” Heinz said.

The awards (aka “the heroes award”) recognizes the sisters’ “selfless acts of rendering lifesaving aid to another in the time of need.”

The sisters had been to about five houses when they saw Knupke sweeping her front porch. They approached her about buying some candy.

“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,” Piper earlier told the Norwalk Reflector.

The girls, who had been taught not to enter a stranger’s home, were on the porch 15 to 20 minutes waiting for Knupke to get money for the candy. They eventually went into the house and looked for the woman. They found her at the bottom of the basement stairs.

Piper said she had her sister run to their house, which is about two blocks away, to notify an adult while she called 9-1-1. Brielle, who was wearing flip-flops, has said she couldn’t run in them, so she ran in her bare feet to contact a family friend. The girls’ parents, Chris and Tessa, were in Texas for family business at the time.

“They are 100 percent important to me,” Knupke said Tuesday after the brief award presentation. “Healing is going well. We are very fortunate.”

North Central EMS paramedic Matt Knowlton and emergency medical technician Melissa Cambarare responded, along with several members of the Norwalk Fire Department — Capt. Dan Hunt and firefighters Chris Dowdell, Ben Luxon and Logan Shullick.

“I just want to say how awesome the first-responders are. … They were so organized,” said Knupke’s daughter, Melanie Langjahr.

Norwalk Police Chief Mike Conney and officers Jonathan Crabill and Justin Fulton also came to Knupke’s home.

“I think they did a great thing,” Cambarare said, referring to the Rupp sisters. “I thought they did a great job. … “They knew there was an emergency and called 9-1-1.”

“They were calm, cool and collected,” added Knowlton, noting it’s the perfect way to respond to crises.

Previously, Piper took a babysitting class at EHOVE Career Center, which addressed how to handle emergencies. Knupke earlier told the Reflector she remembered the young girl was calm and “being very adult about it all,” while Piper said she was slightly nervous and her hands were shaking.

“She was kinda relieved and scared at the same time,” the 11-year-old girl said, referring to Knupke. “She said she couldn’t move the bottom half of her body because her hip was really hurting.”

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. 

Langjahr was asked Tuesday how her mother’s recovery and spirits have been. She said her mom is frustrated with the recuperation time, “but she’s doing better.”

“The Willows has been working with her. We got her into a home health (program) to come in and help her with her therapy, so she’s keeping upbeat. It’s just hard on her,” Langjahr added.

The daughter expressed her gratitude for what the Rupp sisters did.

“We feel blessed. We know that God was looking out for Mom, because to hear Mom’s cries from where they were, it has to be a higher power. So yeah, we are very blessed. We have added family now; we love them like they are our own now,” Langjahr said.

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