|Hearses carrying the crew members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots return home to Prescott Sunday, July 7, 2013.|
TribPhoto/Heidi Dahms Foster
On Sunday, July 7, I had the humbling experience of driving down I-17 towards Phoenix.
THOUSANDS of vehicles and people lined the side of the freeway, in 115-plus-degree weather, waiting for the procession of 19 hearses bringing home our fallen firefighters. Yes, thousands.
I, like everyone else, pulled to the side of the road and stopped when the procession got near, as a sign of respect for these brave men.
If there is any good that has come from this tragedy, it has been that it has united a very divided state. Let's face it - Arizona's people have been turning their backs on each other in droves, between the economy, presidential elections, immigration laws, the list goes on and on. Who would have ever believed that the loss of these brave men would change the attitude of our quirky little state?
We are willing to stand together, in the scorching heat, to pay our respects and show our support for these men and their families. We don't care who we voted for, your race, color, religion, sexual preference, whatever. We're just there to support our fellow man, and his family ... doing so as one BIG family.
As these 19 men look down from above, I'm sure that they are amazed at what has become of us, and how quickly it took place. I'd bet that they are saying, "Why the big deal? We were doing what we loved." THAT is the character of a fireman. Humble. Caring. Strong. Never, in their wildest dreams, could these men have imagined what their passing has done for a state that was emotionally broken.
So tearfully, I say, "Thank you, gentlemen, for all that you did for us during your short lives," and "Thank you for what you have done for us all in passing."