German family of fallen firefighter welcomed to Fort Wayne

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – The wife and sons of a German firefighter who was killed in a fire two years ago flew into Fort Wayne Wednesday night helping fulfill his dream. 

Dirk Fankhanel died fighting a furniture warehouse fire in Chemnitz, Germany on May 20, 2012. He was inside the building when the roof collapsed.

Fort Wayne firefighter Bryan Peterson has taken on the mission to send out sympathy cards on behalf of Station 6 off Coliseum Boulevard and the Fort Wayne Fire Department. Last year, Peterson mailed around 140 cards. Dirk’s wife received one of those sympathy cards and she replied.

“She sent pictures of her kids, she sent pictures of her husband, she wanted us to know her family,” said Peterson. “She would always say, Dirk just loved the United States and he loved the American fire service.”

Peterson wanted to fulfill Dirk’s dream through his family. That’s when he started Dirk’s Dream: Germany to America. NewsChannel 15 first brought you this story in May. Since then, Peterson’s raised money for Cindy and her two sons to come to Fort Wayne and make Dirk’s wish come true. 

“For the last 45 days, she’s been counting down every day,” Peterson said.

Wednesday night is when Cindy and her boys flew into the Fort Wayne International Airport. The family was greeted with a water salute as the plane was pulling in. They would then be greeted by the Fort Wayne Honor Guard after getting off the plane, and everyone else on their way into the airport. Peterson was asked if he had to describe this experience in one word, what it would be. He replied, “Brotherhood”. 

“They’re here for their brother who fell,” he said. “Even if it was in a different country, we all understand the dangers of our job and he’s succumb to that.”

The Fankhanel family will be in Fort Wayne for a couple weeks. They will get to enjoy some of the Fort Wayne attractions and visit parts of northeast Indiana. On Thursday, the family will meet with Mayor Tom Henry and have lunch with the Fort Wayne Fire Department.

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