It will be one of those tragic events where I am always going to remember where I was when I got the heartbreaking news. As I sat in a movie theater last night enjoying a visit with my cousin, who had just flown in hours before, her cell phone sent her a news alert message. She glanced at the message and then grabbed my arm to show me the shocking breaking news headline that said Breaking: 19 Firefighters Killed In Arizona. It was hard to concentrate on the movie from the point on, which is eerily titled “The Heat” and my mind kept trailing off to thoughts about my friends who are firefighters, my late Grandfather who was a proud Washington DC fireman and to my friends and coworkers in the KTVK newsroom who I knew would be working hard into the evening reporting the news and feeling the heartbreak. I also thought about how much I love living in Arizona and how much I appreciate the fire fighters who work so hard and unselfishly to keep us safe in our beautiful state.
Once the movie ended and we could get more information, I could feel that our community of desert dwellers and Arizona residents across the state felt shock and sadness as we learned that the victims were Hotshots from Prescott, Arizona, an elite crew known for working on the front lines of region’s worst fires. My TV station, KTVK reported that all but one member of the Prescott-based Hotshot crew died in what was the deadliest wildfire for firefighters in the U.S. in decades. I can’t imagine the anguish the surviving member is feeling today. At the time that I write this, the victim’s names have not been released.
Today I honor and mourn those brave fire fighters who were caught in a fire that tricked them with crazy winds and hot temperatures. They knew the risks going in and bravely faced those risks each and every time they donned their fire gear to protect the people, the homes, the wildlife and to try to preserve our beautiful state, which sadly experiences these horrific wildfires every summer. This summer will now be infamous with 19 of our best, brightest and bravest taken way too early in the most honorable way. I send my heartfelt prayers to the families left behind whose lives have been tragically altered from this tragedy. I honor these heroic firefighters and pay tribute to all of the men and women who risk their lives and bravely fight fires to try to save all of us. I think of 9/11 and how we were all sadly reminded that the all mighty fire fighter is a human among us who takes on the super hero job of a fire fighter. Today I mourn the loss and honor their lives.
And I thank the families who share their fire fighter with us in the most dangerous of situations. I am humbled by the realization that these men and women never look back, but head full force into danger to help and save others. To me that is a true hero. To the 19 true heroes that our state (that I love so much) lost yesterday, I thank you and will remember you as our honorable fire fighters. To you and to all firemen and firewomen, you are the true definition of the word hero. Heroes that our children look up to and some dream of being someday. Today with a broken heart that I share with fellow Arizonans and our nation, I thank you and I honor you.