Yarnell musician aids community with song
In retrospect, musician Denise Roggio believes that as the Yarnell Hill fire chased her and her husband from their home, it was trapping the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots in its deadly path at the same time.
Roggio and her husband, Lou, had watched the fire build from their hilltop home in Yarnell. "We were watching ashes fall from the sky," she said. Their motor home was already packed because they had been told earlier they might have to evacuate. Then, they heard the order to "get out of here now" from the sheriff's deputy who alerted them. The fire was "rolling right toward" their neighborhood, and the couple could see the flames and smoke billowing.
"It happened so fast," Roggio said.
What touches her now is that "we were going to safety and they were trapped."
She and her husband drove to Wilhoit, where they stayed until the evacuation was lifted a week later.
Lyrics of the song she has written, "Blazing Honor," "ran through my head," said Roggio, whose career has been writing music for other people's lyrics. The title was her husband's idea, but she wrote both the lyrics and music for her song, which honors not only the Hotshots who died but the one who survived the fire.
Roggio is an avid walker and jogger, and "music runs through my head as I exercise." Though this is the first time she's written lyrics for a song, the words for "Blazing Honor" came to her within a few days of the tragedy.
The Roggios returned home July 9 and, by July 11, she and her husband had recorded the song and were mixing it. They have a recording studio in their home, and Lou "is a computer techie geek," Roggio said.
Roggio sings, with the background music coming from her Clavinova, a digital keyboard that produces "wonderful sounds" and gives the impression of an array of live instruments.
"I sing my own backup harmonies," Roggio said. "I sing with myself and it sounds like a choir."
"The whole idea" for "Blazing Honor" came to her when she found out about the Hotshots. "I didn't know this was going on," she said, until she heard later that they had died.
"Blazing Honor" also pays tribute to Brendan McDonough, the 20th Hotshot who survived the fire.
"He witnessed it," she said. "He had to endure it and there was not a thing he could have done to help" his crew. A line that honors McDonough says, "You must have some work here left to do."
"There has to be a reason that Brendan was spared," Roggio said. "That sticks out to me."
In praise of the 19 Hotshots who died, Roggio quotes the first part of the song's chorus: "Hands of mercy. Hearts of courage. You have saved us from the flames."
People who wish to donate to the Yarnell Hill Recovery Group and the Yarnell Community Center may go to Denise Roggio's music website, deniseroggio.com, listen to the song, and, right under the song's lyrics, click on the "donate" button. Net proceeds will help the two groups rebuild the town.