I’ve “attended” a funeral from afar before – Princess Di, President Reagan, probably some others. But today’s memorial service for the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots who perished in Yarnell, Arizona, earlier this month, was just as memorable as those of big-name celebrities and politicians.
I have a personal interest in this one. Not because I knew any of these men, but because, first, I am the widow of an industrial firefighter and first responder who died suddenly, and second, because the tragedy happened in my state, just 125 miles from my home, and all Arizonans have mourned these past 9 days.
From the beginning of this televised service, when On Eagles’ Wings was sung by a choir of “regular people with beautiful voices,” as one of my friends described them, through the many eulogies spoken by fire service officials, firefighters, and politicians (among them VP Biden and Gov. Brewer), to the prayers and scriptures, the ringing 19 times of the last watch bell, the presentation of flags and pulaski tools and IAFF medals of honor to the families, the playing of bagpipes, the cries of “All uniformed personnel, please rise!” before the Final Alarm, the military flyover in “missing man” formation – and the memorable view of a somber line of 19 pairs of boots, each topped by a firefighter’s coat, a helmet, and a pulaski – well, I couldn’t help but weep as if I’d been there in person, experiencing what the families felt, and feeling the love of fellow firefighter families and friends.
Ordinary people living ordinary lives and giving their lives in order to protect the lives and property of others – that’s who those Hotshots were and what they did. They were honored by thousands of mourners in an extraordinary way. I’m very grateful to have been able to experience the service from 125 miles away and mourn with those families. I hope they felt the love sent their way from Maricopa, Arizona.