Such sadness. Yesterday I learned that nineteen wildland firefighters were killed in Arizona trying to fight a forest fire threatening homes and citizens in Arizona. These young men were truly heroes.
This group of nineteen young men – in their twenties and early thirties – faced a large, out of control fire coming directly toward them. Official reports are yet to surface, but what I read is that they were following protocol, attempting to slow or stop the flames with a firebreak, when the flames were still small. Then the erratic wind picked up, causing the fire to grow and move toward them.
With no way to escape, the crew deployed their fire shelters – basically tents designed to provide air and protect the occupant from fire.
But the sudden shift of the flames and the severity of the fire proved too much for the shelters the men deployed. Nineteen souls were lost, in a flash. Nineteen loved ones perished, leaving their families, friends, and fellow firefighters to mourn.
This hit especially hard for me. There is a firefighter that I know – a Hotshot – who is, as I type this, currently on duty at that very same fire. He is my daughter's boyfriend of many years. This brings the tragedy home to me, in a very real way. I love him, as a son. As my daughter's love of her life. As a young man with a great sense of humor, one who is kind and caring, and who has an amazing future ahead of him. He chooses to live a life of hard work and real danger, to save lives and homes. I worry about him. I worry for my daughter who is frightened and on edge right now. And I am so very proud of him.
I've followed this story in bits and pieces. I've seen the photos of family members and friends mourning their lost loved ones. I've heard interviews from people whose homes were destroyed but "at least my wife and dog were saved" and I wonder.
I wonder – do they realize the sacrifice made by nineteen very brave young souls on their behalf? And by the hundreds of others still fighting to control this unforgiving force of nature? I am sure they do.
How can they not?
Rest in Peace – brave young souls. You are loved. You are missed. Your lives made a real difference.
Rest in Peace.