in honor of them

I would like to mention quickly the firefighters who died in Arizona last week, who I feel deserve their own stand-alone entry, even if it isn’t a long one. Nineteen young men, trapped by a quickly-changing, constantly expanding wild fire. When I first read the news, in our park’s morning report, I was struck, silenced, brought nearly to tears in our little office. I lived with some wildfire fighters when I was in California, and they are loud and goofy and handsome and strong and brave and kind men – and most of all brimming over with youthfulness. From that small experience, I feel sure that this hotshot crew in Arizona, who died in just about the scariest possible way, were brimming over with youthfulness as well; something that should have lasted forever, and not been extinguished by flame.

Everyone in the Park Service, for more than a week, is wearing black bands across our badges and lowering our flags to half mast. Normally I am weirdly skeptical of grandiose gestures dictated from above, but right now, I am so glad to have the opportunity to have something concrete to do in their honor: to feel the line on the flagpole between my hands and think of them, to wear a physical sign of my sorrow, to be able to tell inquisitive visitors their story all day long, to make a remembrance and respect of them a part of my daily routine. In past summers, in other terrible deaths our country has faced, tragedies all too common, I have also been honored to mark my badge with the signs of mourning; to think about the victims, throughout my day, for days, wearing my sorrow on my chest.

We are thinking of you. We are changed. Your story is everywhere.


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