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Remembering Warwick’s fallen Event organizer moved by community support
By: BRIAN MICHAEL COSTANZO Special to the Record Express, Staff Writer
On Jan. 4, a community came together to support one another and provide countless new shoulders to lean on.
The Warwick community has been struck by a series of untimely deaths, some occurring more than a decade ago, some this past year. All of the deaths impacted members of the community in ways that call for actions to be taken, together. On this day, we, the members of the Warwick School District community gathered to celebrate the lives of Andrew Bolton, Andrew Glassmyer, Andrew Wittenburg, K.C. Welden, Jennifer Daugherty, Lindsey Dunn, Ali Valdespino, Greorgy Fern, James Patrick Gilaberti, Nicholas Berkey, Ryan Brubacker, Jeremey Lavioe, Tiffany Cumberbatch, Dylan Diffenbach, Eric Grey, Charles Eshelmen, Kathrine Schuler and countless others who have left such a positive impact on this planet. Only in their physical state do they no longer exist.
With the staggering numbers of those fallen, whom we loved with every ounce of our being, the community gathered to pay our respects and remember the good times. The event that took place on Friday the 4th was ably named Commemorating Warwick’s Fallen.
I am often asked, "What brought about or galvanized such an event?"
The answer is simple, people I considered to be inspirations, kindred spirits, shoulders to lean on, and gifts to planet Earth were slipping the bonds of our atmosphere to be with God, but far too soon. There were many more good and bad times to be had with these fallen souls, many more stories to have been told, and many more people for them to share their love with. One of the fallen had affected me in a way more personal than words can describe.
When Andrew J. Glassmyer lost his life, part of my life passed with him. He was a soul I could count on, find my reflection in, and could always look to in times of uncertainty. With the realization of how his death impacted my life, I realized that I was not alone. All around the community, families and friends were facing similar events as ones they loved left their physical form to ascend to a greater place. I knew that the only way to really begin the path towards healing was to create an event that involved the families and friends of all those affected by the fallen. The mission was to bring those together who have been hurt with such intense emotional pain and showing them that they are not alone. That no matter the circumstance life brings about, a community, a support network, and the inner-kindness present in all humans, a light will shine through and penetrate the darkness that so often surrounds the passing of a loved one.
The event was named Commemorating Warwick’s Fallen because it was a true commemoration rather than mourning. The planning began as an idea I posted on Facebook and within hours, support began pouring in. I knew the time had come to extend my services to the town at large and show everyone that in every direction you look there is someone there ready to lend a hand and help you when you feel weak, when you feel that going on is no longer an option. The community will reach out and share your burden, feel your pain, and sympathize with legitimate emotion.
As time progressed and planning continued, difficulties came into play in terms of sorting out insurance details, reserving a space in the high school, and making sure that all families and friends affected were properly notified. As with any event, logistical planning is never something that is simple, but with a great cause to motivate the masses, planning went very well with overwhelming support. I cannot thank the district enough for the extreme lengths they went to aid the process of hosting this event.
As insurance details and reservations for the high school’s auditorium made it through their check points, the next phase was using mass media, such as Facebook to galvanize support and begin the creation of committees that would orchestrate various duties — all contributing to success that was the ceremony held on Friday. Efforts to get donations even played a role in preparing for the event. I would like to give a special thanks to Lititz Mennonite Church, Metro Pizza, Hendrick’s Flower Shop, Miller’s Paper Company, and every single individual who volunteered their time and money to creating the environment for Commemorating Warwick’s Fallen to prosper and become the success that it did.
The event had a set plan of what, who and how the night would proceed. It began with greeting people at the doors the auditorium lobby where plenty of snacks and refreshments were available. Also in the lobby was a display where families who created displays for their lost loved ones could set them up and have all others in the lobby pay their respects. The displays were centered around a lovely arrangement of flowers where name tags of those who have passed could be scattered around the table.
After the first hour of the families and friends reacquainting themselves with one another, the ceremony began. Once in the auditorium, I gave the opening speech which was from the heart. It was my honor to speak directly to those in mourning. After the opening speech, a moment of silence was held not only for our fallen, but for those who passed in the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut.
Following the moment of silence, I invited family members up to speak words of encouragement, share their stories of the progress their families and loved ones have made, and really reach out a warm, helping hand. It was an emotional time during the event, but the relief I could see on the faces of family members brought me to tears.
Following the families speaking, I invited Sarah Dickenson on stage to offer a closing prayer that entailed very uplifting language, much needed for an event of this type. Sarah’s prayer was followed by two songs, sung by Joseph Lacombe, a friend who was willing to set aside his time and sing songs that strengthened the sense of togetherness for the event. I then took place on stage again for a closing speech, one which I had prepared; but on a whim, I decided to deliver one from the heart.
After the ceremony ended, we all reconvened in the lobby, where family members and friends were given Warwick awareness ribbons that were created by myself, Joseph Fiore and Lisa Fenn. Flowers from the display were also given to the families as an act of kindness. I made it a personal mission to say farewell to each individual family, which entailed many hugs and tears of joy.
Following the event, there was quite a bit of food left over and many of the items were unopened. We decided to donate the food to the Community Chest. It seemed entirely fitting that an event aimed at helping the community heal could go one step further and feed those who need the food the most. Not only were Warwick’s Fallen Commemorated, but the town of Lititz also received valuable food items that, I am sure, will help families in great need.
Overall, I, along with everyone else involved, consider Commemorating Warwick’s Fallen a full success, providing a support network for those who need it, celebrating those who, while not physically present, graced us with their presence that evening, and above all else, showed the strength of the fibers that hold this community together. It was such a success that parents of lost students, the students themselves, and Mr. Price, the principal of the high school, showed support for the continuation of such a ceremony yearly. I welcome that idea and it is my utmost hope that I, along with everyone who helped, served their purpose in assisting the healing process of the community.
May Warwick’s fallen never be forgotten, and may the future serve to continue to mend the broken hearts that have plagued Lititz and Warwick for far too long and far too frequently. I bless all who helped, attended, spoke, and performed any other action necessary to ensure the success of this event.
I would also like to dedicate a special thanks to: Joseph Fiore, Lisa Fenn, Sarah Dickenson, Sarah Bedwell, Jennifer Costanzo, Elissa Fiore, Shelby Phillips, Hillari Shimp, Joseph Lacombe, Nicole Gallion, Kayla Hummer, Margaret Glassmyer, Joan Glassmyer, Carmella Costanzo, Karen Fiore, Sharon Costanzo, The Valedspino Family, The Gilaberti Family, The Glassmyer Family, The Levoie Family, The Fern Family, The Diffenbach Family, The Bolton Family, and any other family that has felt the pain of lost one but came together for the greater good of the community. More REMEMBERING, page A14