By Dan Walk
With firefighter blood in his veins and after being adopted by firefighter parents, Meadville’s Dale Schreck will never forget the anniversary of the events that transpired on Sept. 11, 2011.
“Every time I hear of a fireman getting killed on duty it stabs you in the heart,” Schreck said Wednesday. “This is something no one should ever forget.”
That’s why Schreck has been putting together a commemorative display in the middle of his yard honoring the nearly 3,000 people who died when hijacked jets crashed into the towers, the Pentagon and in a field near Shanksville. Among those deaths were 343 firefighters.
“Ever since that happened, I’ve been putting something out every year,” Schreck said.
Schreck, 57, was a firefighter himself since 1975 for the Dick Hose Company, which later turned into Meadville Volunteer Fire Department before closing as a fire station two years ago.
Firefighting has been a major part of Schreck’s life ever since he was born. His biological father, John Wasko of Saegertown, was a fireman on a ship for the U.S. Navy, serving from 1943 to 1945, Schreck said. And Schreck’s adoptive parents, Bob and Ann Schreck, had been part of the department all of his life.
On Sept. 11, 2002, Schreck started the memorial with just a firefighter’s helmet. Over the years the memorial grew to include a pair of firefighter boots with the helmet on top of them and “343” written on the front of the helmet, a tribute to the 343 firefighters who died. The boots and helmet are surrounded by a half-dozen American flags in the middle of the yard on the Chestnut Street property of Schreck and his wife, Lynn.
Schreck’s memorial remains on his lawn for about 24 hours every year on Sept. 11 and even includes a light that illuminates the tribute at night. And just as he won’t ever forget those firefighter lives that were lost on Sept. 11, 2011, he plans to assemble the tribute year after year until he no longer can.
Dan Walk can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.