Prescott, Arizona LossThumb Butte and Granite Mountain
I can’t imagine that anyone who has ever visited Prescott, Arizona has left without feeling a sadness and a determination to go there again. It’s hard to describe the beauty, the peace, the spirituality of the area. It’s not just Sedona that soothes our stressful moments. Prescott has something extra that is indefinable. Maybe it’s the feel of the Old West, the stroll down Whiskey Row, the mountains that rise above the town, the desert with its myriad flowering cacti and the lizards that skitter across walking trails. Maybe it’s the sunrises and the sunsets, the open blueness of the sky, the colors of the buttes that jut into that blueness. Certainly it’s the peace and beauty and spirit all rolled into one package.
I fell in love with Prescott on my first visit there. My daughter was starting college there at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. She ended up getting her undergraduate degree and then returning a few years later for her master’s degree. If it’s possible to have a love affair with a place, she had one. It’s a love affair that will never end for her.
The heartbreak of the forest fire that took the lives of the nineteen elite Granite Mountain Hotshots far too soon fills me and my daughter with a sadness that overwhelms our need to keep moving through our own days. These heroes died doing what they loved, struggling to protect the land they love and the people who live on it. I’ve never been to Yarnell, but I imagine I have passed by it on those trips we often took from Prescott to Phoenix to the airport or to shop with my daughter. These small towns nestle among the desert cacti and the towering mountains. The loss of any town in the state of Arizona is unimaginable, even with the knowledge of the frequency of forest fires there and the influence of the monsoon winds. How I wish I could send to Arizona all the rainfall we have had here on the East coast.
The loss of these young men is reminiscent of the loss of the firefighters in 9/11 where the word hero hardly seems adequate. Fighting for what you love is truly heroic, whether it’s a soldier in Iraq or Afghanistan or a firefighter working so hard to save lives. The tragedy for the wives and children, family and friends of these men must be unbearable. The survivor guilt of the one remaining member of the group must be devastating.
As those of us on the East coast try to cope daily with the rainfall of the past few weeks, we need to do something for those in Arizona who long for it. As always, Americans have compassion and a need to help others, and so now we need to find a way to help from a distance. We can send cards, donate to the organizations taking contributions, and pray for recovery for those who lost loved ones. And we can hold our own loved ones a little closer with gratitude that there will always be heroes who are willing to sacrifice their own lives for our safety. We have to do something to help ease the heartbreak and the devastation to this most beautiful and sacred part of Arizona.
Donations can be sent to a number of organizations, among them the following:
The 100 Club will provide death benefits to the families of the 19 firefighters. It’s accepting donations to its 100 Club Survivors Fund in memory of the Granite Mountain Hotshots. The Prescott Fire Department is accepting donations at 1700 Iron Springs Road, Prescott, Arizona 86301. The United Way of Yavapai County is also accepting donations to the Yarnell Fire Fund at http://www.unitedwayyavapai.org.